AVSIM Commercial Aircraft Review

International Fighters

Product Information

Publishers:  Abacus

Description: A package of modern-day fighter aircraft and helicopters.

Download Size:
FS9 - 121 MB

FSX - 120 MB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FS9 & FSX
Reviewed by: Benjamin van Soldt AVSIM Staff Reviewer - August 25, 2009

Introduction

Flight Simulator is a simulator most often used for passenger and cargo jetliners and propliners, together with the single or twin piston engine aircraft. It’s a fact: jetfighters never have been that popular at MSFS, and that’s probably because there are so many simulations out there that are specialized in jetfighters. However, this doesn’t mean no jetfighters are at all produced for MSFS. Some time ago I already showed you the VRS F/A-18E Superbug, and who doesn’t know Alphasim’s wide collection of quality military aircraft? In this review I’m going to discuss another developer’s military aircraft offering: Abacus’s international jetfighters.

I admit: after doing the VRS Superbug review, my appetite for jetfighters had grown, and I was starting to get curious about this package. The package offers you a selection of 11 military aircraft from various countries in various paints, namely the AS 565 Panther, Eurofighter Typhoon, F-111 Aardvark, F-117 Nighthawk, F-15C Eagle, F-35 Lightning II, MiG-29A Fulcrum, Mirage 2000, Saab JA-37 Viggen, SU-33 Flanker and V-22 Osprey. These are nine jetfighters, one helicopter, and the V-22 Osprey, of which I don’t know if it’s supposed to be a helicopter or an airplane – it seems to be both.

Because of this amount of aircraft, I’m breaking up each of the various topics, as to cater for each plane in a separate subtopic concerning that specific feature.

In general, when I first set eyes on this package and saw the price (29.99 USD), I didn’t really know what to expect. At less than 3 USD per model, I didn’t expect any high quality, rather a collection of decent looking aircraft to toy with. In the end, this proved partly true. Anyway, without further ado, let’s get on with the review.

Installation and Documentation

Installation is easy and straightforward. You start the installer, and it does everything for you. After installation I found all the aircraft correctly installed in FS9’s aircraft folder, and they all appeared correctly in the sim. In the start menu’s program folder, I found a new file titled “Abacus” containing the readme file, and I found the exact same folder and file in the FS9 main directory.

Installation has finished.

To my great surprise, I couldn’t find any “real” documentation. There was the readme file, detailing the aircraft a bit and what to expect from the product, but that was basically it. Nowhere in the installed folders was documentation to be found. While you don’t need to know a lot about these aircraft, since they are quite basic, there are some operations with some of the aircraft that I think are good if they are mentioned clearly somewhere.

For example, I noticed you need to push the flaps button to get the rotors of the V-22 Osprey to turn to a horizontal position so you can fly forward. So while I do think that more comprehensive documentation isn’t really necessary, it’d be good if there were some more instruction on some of these special planes. It would also have been nice if some basic details were given of the planes, like max speed, wingspan, that sort of details. For the rest though, all information you need is given.

Exterior models

AS 565 Panther

On first inspection, the detail of the model is quite good. It looks like the real thing, although I’m not so sure about the nose. If you look at the photograph of the real thing, you see that the nose goes slightly down in a straight line, whereas the FS model seems to go up a bit, like shoes that have seen the outside world for some time already. For the rest, though, with a nice exterior and nice interior modeled in it, there is hardly anything to complain about.

The texturing is nice, although I think the surface is too reflective. The lights’ texturing you see at the bottom of the helicopter isn’t as good though, and could have been better. Plus, when you now switch on the lights, you see a tiny light “bulb” in the lamp, and it’s only when you zoom out sufficiently that the tiny “bulb” becomes big enough to encompass the entire lamp. I don’t think this is the model’s fault though, and shouldn’t be frowned upon too much.

Eurofighter Typhoon

The Eurofighter also has a nice looking exterior. It is sufficiently detailed and everything looks more or less the way it should. The reflection isn’t as enormous as with the Panther helicopter, which is good. For the rest, all animations that you’d expect are there: control surfaces, opening canopy, the engine outlets opening or closing in accordance with the throttle setting. There isn’t a lot more to tell, honestly. It’s good enough. Not anything extraordinary, but it gets the job done.

F-111 Aardvark

Now here is a plane that I’ve always enjoyed looking at. It’s not a beautiful aircraft, by any means, but it’s something about he combination of clunkiness, heaviness, speed and shape that make me like this plane. I think the team at Abacus did well with this plane. Like with the previous one, the Eurofighter, everything that you’d expect just works, and it all looks fine.

I did notice two weird things: only when you extend flaps to 30 degrees or so, will the wings unfold. Perhaps this is how the real plane works, but that seems weird to me. The other thing is related to texturing. If you look closely, you may notice the inside of the gear doors of the hind landing gear is red. I’ve seen this redness also under the speed brake of the Eurofighter, so it can’t be something specific to the aircraft, but a general “mishap” in the texturing. I’d say it should be grey there, so that could be a possible con.

F-117 Nighthawk

As much as I like the F-111’s looks, I equally dislike the F-117’s looks. I’ve never understood why some say it looks good, and I always came to the conclusion that it was called “cool” because it is a stealth plane. And sure, the black paint is nice. Anyway, the exterior of this plane is also quite good, and resembles the real thing in a very good way. The detail of the paint job is nice, too, but it is the only paint job the plane has. All others have three paint jobs, yet this one has only one. Of course that’s because this plane is only used with this paint job.

F-15C Eagle

The F-15 is a rather old aircraft, and is already being phased out in most countries that use them. The aircraft itself is rather nice, though blocky in design, and the FS model we find at our disposal with this package is rather nice too. It seems very descent, looking very real next to its real-life counterpart.

The cockpit seems a bit empty, but that’s just the way the aircraft was designed. The texturing is also quite nice, except for the giant rotor blades, as can be seen in the most right picture. This looks a bit weird and could perhaps have been a bit subtler. All in all, a nice model. Not very detailed, but it does the job. It has all necessary animation and the reflection is not excessive.

F-35 Lightning II

Believe it or not, but I didn’t really know something like the F-35 even existed. I’ve seen pictures of this plane, but it was always called something different: like X-32. It now appears that the Boeing proposal (which is the X-32), was eventually used to create a new fighter aircraft: the F-35 Lighting II.

Personally, I dislike the aircraft’s design, but from what I can see from available photographs, the FS model is very close to the real thing. I won’t go as far as saying that it’s exactly the same thing, but it does the job very well. The paints are also very nice. For the rest, we have the usual animations, which all look good, but there isn’t much more to tell. Like with the others, it does the job but it’s not exceptional in detail.

MiG-29A Fulcrum

I always liked Russian aircraft, and the Mig-29 is no exception. The exterior model of this aircraft is, like with the others, pretty nice. It seems to have some great detail, and all animations that we expect are there. The paint jobs are generally OK, except that all repaints have spots that in fact are textured, but they are textured with a white/grey color. I’m not sure why this is done, because it makes a good model look unfinished and a bit sloppy.

For example, the German Air Force repaint has a very large spot of white/grey in the VC, making it look unfinished, plus I’m fairly sure that’s not how the real thing looks. Also, the Russian Air Force paint job in fact has the VC fully textured, with white/grey spots, so my main thought is: if you have a fully, nicely textured VC in one paint job, why don’t you have it in the other too? Other than that, the exterior and paints are nice. Decent is the word for it, since the detail isn’t that great, but it’s certainly above mediocrity: it is a good-looking model.

Mirage 2000

The Mirage aircraft series is a classic series. The Mirage 2000 is the newest family member, and Abacus seems to have done quite a nice job replicating the models in their package. It has all the usual animation, and all necessary details are there. I can’t spot any problems, neither with the model, nor with the paints. Like with the other planes, it is decent job with nice details and nice paint jobs.

Saab JA-37 Viggen

Saab aircraft have never been my favorite jetfighters and I never knew what to think of them. The Saab Viggen for me has the same problem. It looks a bit clunky. With the weird hind gear, it looks like the aircraft is extremely heavy for some reason. That’s notwithstanding that Abacus did a good job modeling this aircraft in FS. I don’t see any problems. The paint jobs are nice and sharp, the animations are the usual ones, but they work and they work well. Nothing more to say, I’m afraid, it’s simply a decent job, like the other planes.

SU-33 Flanker

Another Russian plane! I sure like these Russian planes with two vertical stabilizers. They look cool for some reason, it’s a bit hard to explain I’m afraid. That’s why I’m so glad Abacus seems to have done a very decent job modeling it for FS. There are no obvious anomalies, and the paints look nice and crisp. The usual animations are there. Overall, this plane simply looks quite good, and that’s it. Detailing isn’t great, but it’s good enough. It’s on the level of the other planes, which means it’s quite nice.

V-22 Osprey

The V-22 Osprey is one weird thing. It seems to be half aircraft, half helicopter. The FAA classifies it as a Powered Lift Aircraft. It takes of and lands vertically (not horizontally, otherwise you risk damaging the rotor blades, since these are huge), but flies horizontally.

The exterior model of this plane in FS looks good, except that I noticed that the rotor blades are 2D rectangles of blackness, which looks a bit weird if you happen to catch the aircraft in just the wrong position on your screenshot. Other than that, it has an entire virtual cabin modeled, as you can see, and there are ample of doors and what not to open. The rest of the animations also seem rather nice. The paints, too, are decent.

Interior models

Now that we had a look at the exterior models, it’s time to go in and give the interiors a look. In general, the exteriors were very nice. Will the interiors be of the same quality?

AS 565 Panther

The Panther helicopter’s interior is, as can be seen from the screenshots, not very nice. It all eyes a bit simplistic, with crude texturing and a cockpit layout that’s only similar to the real thing in the placing of chairs. The main panel is quite different in reality, although some of the instruments found on the Abacus model’s panel appear to be as in reality, on the approximate place of the real thing.

There’s a problem with the VC eye point though: It’s placed just too low, so you don’t have a good overview of what happens outside. This can of course be easily corrected either by shifting it upwards via ActiveCamera, or by using the respective commands in FS2004 itself, or simply altering the aircraft .cfg file. In general, though, the VC is very simple and just an approximation of the actual helicopter.

Eurofighter Typhoon

On first inspection, the Eurofighter’s VC is okay. It does the job, but it’s also very simple. Compared to real world Eurofighter cockpits, the interior of the FS model by Abacus clearly is a Eurofighter, with the correct placement of the main gauges in general, although the yoke, throttle handles and various other stuff are not quite placed correctly and are shaped differently.

Furthermore, the side consoles are flat bitmaps, which, although it’s quite sharp, looks a little weird. For the rest, there is not a lot to say. The VC is an approximation, and is only like the real thing in broad lines. That said, the texturing is okay and I couldn’t spot any problems. One thing I would like to add, is that the HUD is very hard to read.

F-111 Aardvark

After the Panther and the Eurofighter, I admit I was getting a bit skeptical about the realism of these planes. Admittedly, I didn’t like the VCs of the previous models. However, that changed when I stepped into the F111’s VC. I really like this VC! Although, again, this is only an approximation and the realism is only there in very broad lines (really, the real F-11 cockpit is very different!), I like how this VC was textured. It really looks a military aircraft, with the “busy” side consoles, full of buttons.

It’s only when I was into one of the test flights, that I realized a few things: The HUD again is quite hard to read, and if you look closely, you’ll see none of the buttons on the consoles have text as to what they do. You have to mouse over the buttons to figure out what it does. It’s exactly for this reason that I’d wanted to have some more documentation, because many people will probably want to know exactly what a specific button does, and not have to search for it all the time.

This is definitely a point that could have been improved upon. However, other than that, I enjoy flying from this VC, although it’s a completely unrealistic (for one, the real cockpit is completely filled with buttons, all kinds of radar screens, you name it).

F-117 Nighthawk

The F-117 cockpit is quite different from conventional cockpits in that there is no big canopy. It feels cramped because of the small windows. This is definitely a point the Abacus’s F-117 VC conveys well, because this VC feels cramped. The minute I was in, I did spot a problem. Just look closely at the right screenshot: there’s a piece missing there!

I notified Abacus about this, and said they’ll try and have it patched, so concerning that error we can only wait for a solution. For the rest, like with the other VCs, it’s unrealistic and, yes, just an approximation. I guess I got used to that by now. There was one thing that did bother me, and that was the flat wheel lever. At least that lever was 3D most of the time, but here it’s flat. I’ll be honest. It looks very weird.

Other than that, the HUD is extremely hard to read, and give the displays a look: do these gauges look familiar? Yes, they do: the left one was also in the Eurofighter, and the right one appeared in the Panther helicopter. The gauges are recycled in various planes, which adds to the unrealism, but I can’t say I’m surprised. Let me be clear: we are paying under 3 dollars per model, which is a ridiculously low price!

F-15C Eagle

The F-15 is a rather well-known aircraft. Since this was the only aircraft with a paint of the Israeli Air Force, I was hoping the VC would be nice, for I hoped I could fly it often. Inside the VC, though, it quickly became apparent this was perhaps the most unrealistic VC yet.

While the main panel certainly looks like the real F-15’s main panel, the side consoles were clearly borrowed from the Eurofighter model. The HUD can be read better here, contrary to the other planes, and the texturing is okay. As a fun little thing, look at the second screenshot: I liked how you could have an overview of your plane when turning around your view. This of course is inherent to the plane having such a big canopy, but think of the implications: this means that those of us with ActiveCamera have the option to move the camera around and make very nice custom camera points! That’s a plus, and I’m quite glad Abacus took the trouble to make these models around the VC.

F-35 Lightning II

Here we have a rather unique cockpit. Since the photographs of the F-35 cockpits were all but the same, I can’t really say what the actual F-35 cockpit really looks like, but in the end I found a cockpit that somewhat resembled Abacus’s plane, so I went with that one.

I’m happy to report that in general the Abacus model looks like the photograph I found, but there are nuances that are not right. For example, the tiny pedestal you see in the Abacus model, housing the GPS, seems to be somewhat bigger in the real thing, and has completely different controls there. Also the main panel, which in general is okay, is quite different in the areas around the huge black CRT screen. For example, the gear lever should be bigger, and left of it are various buttons that simply look different. I’m not so sure about the throttle quadrant, though… I wasn’t able to find a picture that adequately showed its looks, but in light of the other VCs, I’m to conclude that in general that’s the way it looks, although it may be too big or too small. Since I can’t rightfully comment on that, though, I’ll leave it for what it is.

I’m of the opinion that until now, the F-35 VC is one of the best in this package, together with F-111 (although that one is woefully unrealistic).

MiG-29A Fulcrum

The Mig 29 VC is of the standard of the Eurofighter VC. The main panel is quite okay, although again it’s clearly just an approximation, but the side consoles appear flat and lifeless. The HUD here, though, is easier to read than in the other planes, and generally, it’s a nice VC to fly from, although the placing and size of some gauges and cockpit instruments are a bit inaccurate.

One thing that bothered me though, is the texturing of the sides and the back of the VC. I already commented on this in the section about this plane’s exterior, but I’m bringing it up here again. The screenshot you see of the VC is when utilizing the Russian Air Force livery, and admittedly, it’s not so bad here.

If you were to use any of the other two paint jobs, though, you’d see it’s textured with a white/gray texture that makes the cockpit look untextured. It’s probably a matter of taste, but I greatly dislike this and I wonder why some more detail wasn’t done here. At least give it a darker texture, so that it doesn’t seem untextured. It makes an otherwise decent VC look a bit sloppy, I’m afraid.

Mirage 2000

Looking at this VC, I think it looks pretty decent. I guess that’s mainly because of the 3D switches on the consoles, because in general the VC layout is a bit unrealistic and, yes, you guessed, an approximation of the real thing. A few points may stand out: the side consoles look awfully like the F-111’s side consoles, the main gauges you see on the main panel are endlessly recycled in the other planes and there is a weird green thing in the very middle of the cockpit. According to screenshots, that “weird, green thing” isn’t supposed to be green at all, but is an oval (not round) CRT screen.

For the rest, the yoke is too small. So, in general, this VC, while on first sight nice, is all but detailed, and while the general layout is realistic, when you look into more detail of various gauges, you’ll discover how inaccurate those really are. All that said, I feel I should mention I find it quite enjoyable to fly from this VC, and I’m inclined to simply think: “this is not a Mirage 2000, but a Mirage 2009”.

Saab JA-37 Viggen

Back at the Saab, we are now sitting inside. The first thing you’d say when you look around this cockpit, is that it looks fairly accurate, or perhaps that’s because it’s so different from the other VCs I showed you? That’s probably the case, because this VC is also not entirely like the real thing. From the few photographs I found, I could piece together that the main panel is relatively accurate, but the side consoles leave a bit to be desired. Since I couldn’t find photographs that gave a good overview, though, I’m inclined not to comment too much on the correctness of the cockpit’s layout.

The texturing is quite nice, though a bit blurry here and there. What struck me when looking at the right console, is that big knob you see: there is actual text around it! It’s not readable, but since the knob probably anyway doesn’t do what it should do, that’s hardly important. I think therefore that the VC of this plane is ultimately one of the most accurate VCs you can find in this package.

SU-33 Flanker

From all the planes, I desperately hoped this VC would be nice. After the disappointment I had with the F-15, I didn’t get my hopes up too much, but still. In this case, the VC turned out all right. The main panel is actually very accurate, a first in this package. The side consoles seem to be recycled from the F-111, although they are now textured blue-ish, as customary in Russian aircraft. In general, I’m quite fond of this VC, and given its price (under 3 USD), it’s very good. The HUD can be read with relative ease, and even the yoke and throttle quadrant don’t seem too small.

V-22 Osprey

I loaded up this aircraft, seated in the VC, and, after the success of the Su-33, my first thought was “Oh”. That’s not good. I looked around, and while everything was textured okay, the gauges and lights just didn’t have the same quality. It all looks very simplistic, as if somebody didn’t really feel like finishing it accurately, so he just slapped on some random lights.

I’m sure this is not the way it was done, but you get that feeling when you look at it. That was before I noticed that there is a complete cabin modeled in the back! As you can see, you can walk through a narrow opening, and find yourself in what presumably is the cargo hold although it’s obvious soldiers can also take a seat in there. I’ll admit the texturing isn’t very sharp, but I think it’s a very nice addition for what is otherwise just a mediocre VC.

In general

If there is one thing I dislike in all these aircraft packages, and you see it most of the time, is that VCs and panels have gauges and elements that are recycled from other planes. Looking at the planes’ VCs, and notice that some of them are pretty successful like the Su-33, F-111 and the Saab Viggen.

I can only come to one general question: why not simply take the 5 or 6 planes that look best, then focus on that, instead of having 11 aircraft with VCs of which some really are just mediocre. I’d rather pay more on a per model basis and get higher quality VCs, than pay per model, and get more aircraft with a lesser quality VC.

Panel

In this part, I’m going to change the way I look at the various planes, because after testing all the aircraft’s panels, it was clear that all panels share exactly the same functionality, and all that is different is the way the panel looks. So, without further ado, my conclusions:

The panels are very basic. I’d say they are about as complicated as the default planes’ panels. All gauges in essence work as they should, although I noticed that the HSI, in the form that you encounter on the Panther helicopter, has the weird habit of “jumping up and down”. I’m not sure how to explain this, but in very high frequency, the horizon will jump up and down, then settle on the actual horizon, as it should be, and then start jumping up and down again. However, beside this weird and slightly distracting anomaly, everything seemed to work fine.

The autopilot could have been a bit more aggressive, for in my tests it did banking and descending/ascending very slowly and I wished it would do that faster. It did work correctly, though, so for the rest no problems there. Below are screenshots of some of the 2D panels, to give you a basic idea of how they generally look.

V-22 Osprey 2D panel. Su-33 Flanker 2D panel. Mirage 2000 2D panel.
F-117 Nighthawk 2D panel. F-111 Aardvark 2D panel. F-35 Lightning II 2D panel

As you can see, they mostly look quite good. I doubt the gauges are all as they should look and that they are at the right position on the panel, but other than that, it gives a nice representation that’s easy to read and easy to understand. So in light of the simplicity it’s quite good, although it would score very low in the realism department.

Sounds

Ah, the sounds. The sounds of these aircraft generally are the default Learjet, helicopter or Boeing sounds it seems, where appropriate with an afterburner sound added when your throttle is maxed out. Unfortunately I noticed that the F-35’s sounds are a bit mixed up: at idle throttle, there is an afterburner sound, but at maxed out throttle, the afterburner sound is gone.

For the rest, most aircraft indeed use the Learjet sounds, which is unrealistic, but we can’t expect realistic sounds at less than 3 USD per model. I’m quite willing to forgive this con, and you can find nice jetfighter sounds in the AVSIM library.

A note of warning

While testing these planes during flight to see how their flight dynamics (FDE) were, I encountered some big problems. Items like shaking, stuttering, nad weird behavior all around. I proceeded to email the team at Abacus about these problems, who promptly reacted with a comprehensive email detailing the problems I had.

Most of the FDE problems I found could not be duplicated on their testing machines, but one line in the very beginning of the email struck me: their realism settings were on easy! When I put my realism settings on easy, some of the biggest problems I had were gone. So, for all of you thinking to buy this, before you fly any of these planes, put your realism settings on easy!

Taking the planes for a flight

When I initially started writing this bit of the review, I started out writing a description of a flight for every single aircraft in the package. Not too far in, though, I realized one thing: all the planes, except for the AS 565 Panther and V-22 Osprey, fly basically the same. There are differences in top speeds and overspeed limitations, as well as specific features of the aircraft’s airframe, like the F-111 having extending wings.

Besides that kind of stuff, the basic handling really is not very different per airplane. So, in the end, what I decided to do, is make three categories for this bit: The Panther helicopter, the fighter jets and the V-22. In that way I can adequately describe every single one of the planes without having to write the same story approximately nine times.

AS 565 Panther helicopter

Helicopters are not easy to handle flying machines. Those that start out with flight simulator can certainly attest to that (including myself). Fortunately, I did use FSX for a while before ultimately going back to FS9. In that time though, I completed all helicopter related FSX lessons, which actually taught me quite a bit on how to successfully handle helicopters.

With that knowledge I finally started understanding how to handle helicopters. First the Bell Jetranger and Robinson default helicopters, but after that I moved on to some freeware helicopters. Now I’m taking this payware helicopter for a quick ride.

So when I stepped into this helicopter, I didn’t quite know what to expect. Would it be easy to handle, since the entire package is more about quantity than realism, or would it be hard to handle, because of lack of quality? One thing I noticed straight away was the eyepoint in the VC: it is too low. On the standard setting you can hardly see anything because the main panel is right in front of you. Those with a camera tool like ActiveCamera, though, won’t have a hard time to correct that, but I’d like to see Abacus patching this. It’s no big flaw, and although it’s easily remedied, it makes flying the helicopter harder than necessary.

Overcoming that little thing, I upped the throttle, and watched from outside how slowly the helicopter took off. So far so good. Upping the throttle more, pointing the nose slightly down, the helicopter started accelerating swiftly and as you’d expect… for the Bell Jetranger. During all the rest of the maneuvers that I did with this helicopter, it was apparent how the FDE of this helicopter was quite like the Bell Jetranger’s.

I suspect Abacus took the Jetranger’s FDE, and put it into the Panther, possibly tweaking it a little to reflect weight and speed differences. In effect, this makes the Panther a nice and enjoyable helicopter to fly (anyway, I like flying the default Jetranger), but also an unrealistic one.

I should add I saw some weird behavior now and then upon landing. If the landing would be a bit hard, the helicopter would sometimes “hang” slightly to one side, as if one of the hind wheels was not placed correctly on the ground, rather slightly under it: something I’ll call a “buried under the sand effect” for now. When I’d up the throttle just enough to get the helicopter to slightly ascend and then quickly downing the throttle, the Panther would stand on its three wheels just in the way you’d expect it to do. I guess the solution here is simple: land very carefully.

This does mean two things: those that seek realism should look elsewhere, and those that seek a very fun to fly helicopter have found it. Although the realism of the helicopter’s FDE definitely is rather bad (I just can’t imagine this helicopter handling like the default Bell Jetranger), it is fun to fly precisely because of its simplicity.

Flying forward. Turning fast, all goes well.

Planes

There are a total of 9 different planes in this package. As I said, I’m not going to detail every one of them, because I’d probably be writing the same story nine times. So what I’m going to do, is write how the FDE generally behaves, and then I’ll point to some aircraft specific issues.

All planes handle quite well. There are some issues with the F-117 and Eurofighter that I’ll touch upon, and there are some characteristics that I find hard to believe, but other than these things, the planes handle nicely. With all of them, operations like takeoff, climbing, descending, turning and landing is no big deal. Taxiing may prove a bit quirky here and there, but it’s really only the ground handling that in principal may need some work.

In those cases where that proved a problem, it mainly meant that the aircraft were prone to tipping over if you’d turn, even ever so slightly, at too high speeds. In principal every aircraft will tip over if you turn while driving too fast, but it was a bit absurd with these planes, especially because the rate at which they tipped over was quite big. You’d try to turn, and quite soon the aircraft would tip over and you’d be on your back without quite knowing what just happens. The easy solution is, of course, to be careful, but it’d be nice if this could be looked at by Abacus.

Other than that, I found some aircraft specific issues that persisted even when I set my realism settings on easy. There also were some aircraft characteristics that I found a bit weird, seeing as how they compared to the VRS Superbug that I also reviewed. I should now add that I have by no means comparing every aspect of this package to the sublime VRS F/A-18 that costs 45 dollars, but there were some things indeed, like topspeeds, that I did compare.

With jetfighters, it’s apparent that they are rather fast. The VRS Superbug, for example, can get to 500kts, which is about 150~200kts faster then your standard jetliner. With some of these aircraft, most notably the F-111, I noticed they are quite a bit faster than either the Superbug or any other jetfighter. The F-111, for example, managed to get me to at least 1150kts, which is approximately where the overspeed horn started sounding.

As you can see, this is more than twice the speed I got with the VRS Superbug. I’m not saying this is wrong, but I find it very hard to believe. A quick look at Wikipedia, though, tells us that the topspeed of the F-111 is in fact Mach 2.5, but it also tells us that the topspeed of the F/A-18E is Mach 1.8. The difference shouldn’t be as great as it is, then. In short, I’m not sure what Abacus exactly did, but I find it hard to believe that the F-111 can reach its maxspeed in such a short time, and even go over it that easily. Because that’s what seemed to happen: after I had upped the throttle, my speed just kept rising without it ever really stopping.

I should admit I didn’t fly indefinitely. I kept flying until the speed crossed the 1200kts mark, and witnessed how the speed kept rising. I say this is rather weird and unrealistic behavior, but I’m confused as to how this should be. I completely trust the validity of the operation of the VRS Superbug, but in principal the F-111 isn’t wrong either. Anyway, although I don’t believe the speed of the F-111, I confess I love how fast you can fly. Although it’s rather unrealistic, I quite like it, and I’m sure I’ll be flying this plane more often, purely because of the speed you can have with it.

The speed looks rather low (188kts), but in fact the speed is 1188kts. This is because the speed can’t get above 999 on the gauge. For your information, the speed is still rising and went over 1200kts.

There is yet another problem I encountered, which is somewhat more serious than the speed issue I highlighted. I found the problem only with the Eurofighter and Nighthawk planes, but it’s enough to make these two planes hard to fly. What’s even worse, is that this is one of those issues that is not consistent in any way.

In my tests it seemed to occur pretty randomly. After takeoff, usually between 300 and 400kts, the plane would start shaking violently up and down, in a vertical motion. Not sideways, just up and down. It seemed logical that what started above 300kts, would also stop below 300kts, but that too didn’t happen: Numerous times I encountered this problem at various speeds below 300kts. I’m not sure what causes this, but it’s possible to get rid of it.

Usually, by deploying speed brakes, I managed to make the shaking stop. But as I would start to make a turn, the shaking would come back. I’m afraid I can’t give you any work-around for this, and I hope Abacus can do something about it. This is the type of problem that makes a plane unflyable. I should mention, though, that in my correspondence with Abacus, it quickly appeared that they didn’t have this issue. So that’s yet another uncertainty: you might not even encounter it. For those that do encounter it, 2 of the 11 aircraft may have just become unflyable.

A third problem I encountered was only with the F-35. On landing, the plane’s reaction to flap lowering is quite violent. Especially when you get to the greater flap settings, like the 30 degree range, the aircraft’s nose has the irritating habit of shooting upwards for a second and then going quickly downward again to the previous nose angle. However, this mere second can be quite decisive on final approach and can make landing more difficult than it is. Of course, the F-35 is a plane of which not a lot is known yet to the public, and you can’t really blame Abacus for making an aircraft with problems, of which you don’t know for sure yet if they really are problems. While I regard the portrayed behavior has problematic, we are by no means certain the actual plane has or hasn’t got the same type of behavior.

All in all, most planes fly quite well. It’s just these 4 planes I highlighted here that I think could use a bit of work, but that’s really it. All others handle exactly as you would expect them to behave. Generally, the FDE is simplistic, but it also makes them fun to fly and I can very well understand unexperienced simmers wanting to try these planes first, before starting with more advanced products.

Now, for the heck of it, here are some screenshots of my flights with some of the planes:

Mig-29A
Mig-29A Mirage 2000 Saab Viggen
Saab Viggen Sukhoi 33 Sukhoi 33

V-22 Osprey

The V-22 Osprey can takeoff vertically, then rotate the propellers and fly like an aircraft. The FDE of the Abacus model gives you what you bargained for, but is not problem free. However, we are talking about Flight Simulator here, a not so forgiving platform, and what we are trying to do, is get a model to behave in two distinct ways.

The fact that it at all worked out is good, although it’s by no means forgiven. Takeoff is not how it should be. Think of the Harrier for example: in effect, the Osprey works the same way: takeoff usually is vertical, like a helicopter. This however, is problematic in the Abacus model. First, you have to accelerate to 40kts, like an airplane, and only then will you take off. You’d suddenly be hanging in the air, rising vertically. At that point you turn the propeller nacelles and start flying horizontally.

The behavior of the propellers is something worth saying a bit more about. The operation of nacelle turning is actually quite a bit harder than you’d think, because the Osprey will fly in whatever direction the propellers are pointed in. If you turn the nacelles too fast, you might find yourself losing control of the Osprey. Being too slow, on the other hand, doesn’t really have any consequences, except that you might be climbing more than you’d want to.

In the end, to do this maneuver correctly, you have to have a good control over throttle, yoke and propeller position (meaning you need three hands).

V-22 on the ground. Take off, maneuvering before rotating the propellers.

Summary / Closing Remarks

Before I give any buying advice, one thing should be clear: what is this package anyway? From what I’ve shown you, it should be clear this is no advanced package, and seems to try to give you quantity for the buck, and not so much quality. Don’t get me wrong on that, though. The planes are by no means bad, and are above the average freeware aircraft. Let’s be honest though: this is exactly what you pay for. At the very low price of less than 3 dollars a model, you can only expect planes that are just above the average freeware plane, but there are planes out there that are freeware and vastly better, like Kirk Olson’s F-16 Viper plane. A good summary of this package would therefore be: an entry package for the beginner, interested in military planes, who wants more than the default planes but does not wish more complexity.

In that light, you can hardly complain about what you get. The exteriors are good, the interiors vary from “easy to forget” to “quite nice”, the sounds are the default sounds with some additions, the FDE is very simple and so is the panel. This profile is like that of the default planes, but with better exteriors.

Concerning the freeware alternatives, I mentioned the F-16 Viper package by Kirk Olson. That is undoubtedly one of the best freeware packages available, and it should not be forgotten that the great majority of freeware planes are quite crappy and don’t have a VC. With this package you at least get a VC, which is rather nice.

Test System

Macbook Pro with:
Intel Cure Duo2 @ 2,4 gHz
Geforce 8600GT
4GB DDR2 RAM
Windows Vista Ultimate 32bit

Flying Time:
11 hours

So who should buy these planes? Probably those that are absolute beginners and want military aircraft, without the added complexity of most other products out there. Plus that you get 11 aircraft for 30 dollars, which is an almost unrivaled offer. Just remember, you get what you pay for, which is for no truer than with this package.

There is just one thing left that I have been asking myself about. It’s obvious that the planes in this package are not of the same quality. Some of the included planes are better, more detailed, than others. I personally found myself liking the Mig-29, Su-33 and F-111 most. Their exterior models and VC were roughly of the same level and they were generally the nicest planes to fly.

My question remains: why oh why, Abacus, did you make a package of 11 aircraft? Why not make a selection of 5 or 6 of the best aircraft of the current package, improve on them, then charge a bit more, and give the client still a very good deal, but with much better planes. Because there are planes here that could have been improved upon very easily by making the layout of gauges in the VC more realistic, or by not reusing VC elements of one plane, in other planes.

This is also my final opinion on the package: it is a very good deal, especially for those in the beginning stages of flight-simming. Flight-simming, in my opinion, starts getting really fun when you can do a certain set of tasks with your plane. As a rookie simmer, I’d try to buy packages that are more technically advanced than the default planes, and not packages that offer a wide selection of aircraft that are only technically advanced as the default planes. Of course, I am me and not somebody else, so I can well imagine that a beginning simmer will want this.

In the end, I stand by my opinion that while this is a good deal, it could have been a better deal with less planes, but with the remaining ones being of higher quality.

So: are you a real beginner? Do you want to fly fast? Do you want a lot of aircraft? You don’t want more procedures than the default planes? If the answer to all these question is “yes”, then this package is for you. Otherwise, I advise you to wait and look around.

 

What I Like About International Fighters

  • Nice exterior models;
  • Most of the panels look nice;
  • Wide selection of planes from various parts of the world;
  • Liveries generally look good;
  • Great amount of planes for low price.

 

What I Don't Like About International Fighters

  • Generally simple interior models, although I should add some look pretty nice;
  • Recycled VC parts can be found across the various interiors;
  • Sound is usually a mix of custom and default sound;
  • FDE not to my liking, although it performs well and the planes usually have no problems. It’s just a bit unrealistic;
  • Some aircraft in the packages have had clear FDE related problems that I can’t understand how they appeared;
  • Mig-29 liveries have grey/white parts that are supposedly textured, but make the VC look very weird;
  • Afterburner effect isn’t really that great.

 

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