• F-104 Starfighter by Sim Skunk Works


    Gaiiden

    The Starfighter is a single engine, supersonic, very high performance aircraft.  Built primarily as an interceptor it was developed by Lockheed Martin for the United States Air Force, where it served from 1958 to 1969. Thereafter it continued with Air Guard Units until 1975 when it was phased out.  NASA further operated a mixed fleet of these fighters where they were used for numerous different types of tests and retired in 1994.

     

    The C-series saw combat action during the war in Vietnam, and the A-series was briefly utilized by the Pakistanis during the Indo-Pakistani conflict. It also saw some action with the Republic of China Air Force.

     

    The package was improved up to the F-104S series, which was considered the ultimate in the type, an all weather interceptor designed by the Aeritalia for the Italian Air Force and it was equipped with the AIM-7 sparrow missiles.

     

    A further set of modifications gave birth to the G-series, which was given NATO’s approval for a new fighter-bomber aircraft. Several two-seater versions were also produced, the most prolific the TF-104G.

     

    A total of 2 578 of these aircraft were eventually built, most by the NATO members.  It operated with the Air Forces of more than 12 countries. The Italian Air Force was the last Air Force to retire their Starfighters in May 2004, ending a 46-year service life for the type.

     

    (Wikipedia)

     

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    Installation & Documentation

     

    Right, so let us look at what we are actually getting with this package. There are five different installation files to this package. Two of the installers relate to the S/ASA versions of the aircraft, two relate to the G version of the aircraft and then there is also a weapons pack that is common to both installations. 

     

    Okay now let me try to explain the following: one part of the installers relate to the single player (maybe not correct usage of the term “player”) version of the two different types, that being the S/ ASA and the G version, and the Ubuntu installers, the multi-player (man that word again!) versions for both the different types. Phew, not as hard as I thought!

     

    Now, installing this aircraft may be slightly less user friendly for the less technically inclined PC user. The package is installed as follows:-

     

    1. Download the following files from the developer:-

     

                            1.1 SSW_F104S_3.4.0

     

                            1.2 SSW_F104S_3.4.0_UBUNTU

     

                            1.3 SSW_FRF104G_1.2.0_UBUNTU

     

                            1.4 SSW_WEAPACK_3.8.0

     

                            1.5 SSW_FRF104G_1.2.0

     

    The download is VERY large, all five files totaling 778.83 MB.  Quite a lot of aircraft then!

     

    2. Next you install them. 

     

    3. Once that is complete, you have to select each of the two different types, doesn’t matter which repaint you choose, just as long as you select first one, then the other type within FSX, and launch a flight. This is necessary since the initial installation is limited to a demo of 10 minutes. Once you have launched it, you can exit FSX for the next step.

     

    4. If you now head over to your FSX main folder, you will find that two files had been created, namely:-

     

                            4.1 sswks_[YOUR PC NAME].AERITALIA-LOCKHEED-F104S.ssw; and

     

                            4.2 sswks_[YOUR PC NAME].SSW-LOCKHEED-FRF-104G.ssw

     

    5. Take the two file above and e-mail them to the guys at Skunkworks Simulations to activate them for you and then send you the two edited files, now made registry fixes that you double click on to add it to your registry. Just make sure that this is done in ADMINISTRATOR mode, or else you will have trouble!

     

    That is it! As I said, it is not the most user friendly, one-click-fixes-all-installer, but it gets the job done and I did not encounter any issues during the installation. Just follow the instructions and you won’t have any problems. They also advise that you should create an account with their forums as soon as you get up and running, but be warned - you have to follow those instructions to the letter too! If you don’t use the login information they provide you with, you will not be able to register your account, and you won’t be able to use their forums.

     

    Right, so the installation is complete, let us look at the documentation you get with the aircraft.  If you head over to your SimObjects\Airplanes\SSWF104S-ASA folder, you will find in it a folder named “docs”. You will find a similar folder in the G-series’ docs folder.

     

    Inside this folder, you will find a bewildering amount of manuals/documents, the list reading as follows:-

     

    1. An emergency procedures supplement;

    2. A normal procedures supplement;

    3. A weapons system supplement;

    4. A cockpit layout supplement;

    5. A navigational and flight planning sheet;

    6. A Tacan / VOR-DME pairing supplement;

    7. A take off data sheet;

    8. A VAAFSE pre-selected channel sheet;

    9. A weapons delivery data sheet;

    10. A weapons delivery data sheet in color as opposed to black and white;

    11. A zipper for dummies supplement; and

    12. A zipper hints supplement.

     

    Phew! That is a lot of documentation! Let’s take a closer look at each one...

     

    The Emergency Procedures supplement is really an emergency checklist. Now, this covers what looks to be every emergency from before engine start to shutdown. I love the way they made the checklist look graphically. It is done to resemble the pages of a little knee booklet that you will find in all combat aircraft. Very nice! And yes a fair amount of failures are modeled, while some are not. They mostly stem from doing things the aircraft was not designed to do, so keep that in the back of your mind!

     

    As can be expected then, the Normal Procedures checklist takes you through the normal procedures of getting the aircraft started, getting airborne, getting down and then shutting it down. This is also done in the same graphically attractive booklet as the emergency procedures.

     

    The Weapons Systems supplement/checklist is a comprehensive look into operating the weapons systems of the aircraft. It also explains tactics for the weapons delivery and fighter maneuvers. The graphic design of the pages are slightly different to the first two mentioned above and gives you that aged and military look to it - again, very nice!

     

    The cockpit layout supplement gives you a comprehensive overview of all systems and their locations all over the cockpit. A hint here - study them! It is claimed by the developer that every single switch is animated and working, and they are not joking about that either!

     

    Next in the list of important documents is the take off data sheet. This gives you your various take off distances and power requirements mixed with the different temperature guidelines to be followed by the pilot when operating the aircraft, as well as the relevant airspeeds required for each weight category. Very useful indeed!

     

    The Weapons Delivery sheet will give you important information on the various types of munitions the aircraft is capable of carrying and discharging as well as the limitations of each. 

     

    The Zipper for Dummies supplement is probably the most important document of the bunch to get you airborne and to get this bird under any sort of control. It is written in a straightforward and no nonsense way that quickly and easily gets the point across.

     

    Lastly, the Zipper Hints supplement, which will give you tips on what to focus on and how to setup your installation to get the best out of the key configurations required to operate the aircraft properly.

     

    If you look at the G-series’ docs folder, you will also find a Test Pilot supplement, giving you a lot of technical information on the Zipper. I found it a most enjoyable and educational read, highly recommended!

     

    I was very impressed with the documentation. It is well structured and will get you airborne, whether you are a Starfighter champion or just getting into it for the first time (like me!). Good job, nicely done!

     

    Preliminary

     

    Folks, let us get something straight here right from the word go. Don’t expect to simply get into this bird and blast off. This is a STUDY sim; that is, if you intend to get the most out of it. Think of it as the Falcon 4.0 approach for FSX.

     

    Reading and following the checklists are none negotiable! The documentation indicating that reading through the flight manual is highly recommended is underestimating it somewhat - I would say it is a pre-requisite! 

     

    Picking a weapons load out is not done via the FSX Fuel and Payload menu. You get a separate utility that you all up once you are inside FSX.  Here is a screenshot of it:

     

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    This is obtained by pressing Shift+F2. As you can see, you have the option to start it Cold and Dark, to have it refueled and also give you all the little firecrackers that the aircraft can carry to load on the wings at your leisure. With this feature I can load and unload the aircraft easily with minimum fuss. Excellent!

     

    I found that sometimes the engines would be running but the rest of the cockpit would be dead.  All I did was to simply press the “RESET COLD AND DARK” button on the gimmick to get a cold and dark cockpit with the engine shut off.

     

    Another thing - this aircraft is difficult to get under control, and energy management is critical!  Get it wrong and you are dead, it’s as simple as that! Problem with the simulation? Not at all, this is apparently the way it behaved in real life too! But that should be obvious by just looking at the design of the aircraft. I found it akin to a classic delta like the Mirage III CZ for instance, where energy management is just as critical!

     

    Exterior

     

    Right away, there can be no mistake - you are looking at a Starfighter. The dimensions are correct and you do get quite a few different repaints to boot. Note that you are dealing with different types; to whit, the fighter-bomber version, the air superiority version and the air defense variants.

     

    Inside FSX you will find that air superiority versions’ thumbnails are all bordered in blue and the fighter-bomber versions’ are all bordered green, so that way you know exactly what you are picking for the flight. Of course, you do get the solo and multi-player versions.

     

    Inside the thumbnail you will also be able to tell whether you are selecting an aircraft that can is CLEAN or TPDR (Tips, Pylons, Dispenser,& Rockets) version which can crammed full of explosive stuff and extra tanks.

     

    The air defense versions have thumbnails bordered in red, and similar distinctions is made between UBUNTU and SOLO versions, as well as clean version etc, etc, etc. You get the picture. The multi-player versions have fewer polygons for better performance during multi-player sessions. That is the main difference.

     

    The multi-player (UBUNTU) versions all have lines through the thumbnails in FSX to tell you that you are now selecting a multi-player version. More on that later on.

     

    Anyhow, to get back to the exterior, the repaints as can clearly be seen from my screenshots, are extremely high quality and makes your mouth water!

     

     

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    Each repaint was done with amazing quality at lap joints, fantastic photo real reflections of light off the aircraft skin and very high quality job of the camouflage and lettering, including the numbering etc. It really is a beautifully modeled aircraft from the outside.

     

    Other exterior features are the ladder, the flags covering the static tubes and the wheel chocks, all carefully modeled. Now have a look inside the engine air intakes on both sides and you can see the turbine fan at the back, incredible detail! A close look at the rear and I can see the interior nozzles in their different stages, just like a Concorde’s engines. Riveting stuff!

     

    I was really, really impressed with the exterior job on this aircraft. The developer really put a lot of time and effort into this aircraft and once you look at it closely, one can almost feel the deep love and passion that drives this sort of project by a developer. Amazing job, A+++! 

     

    Interior

     

    The exterior sets a very high standard, so how about the interior? Firstly, no direct 2D main panel to fly from. You have to fly this bird from the VC. The VC is beautifully modeled, again it reminds me of the level of detail that one can find in the Falcon 4.0 series of products. 

     

    It is immediately clear once you start looking around it, that there are a LOT of switches begging to be pushed, pulled, and toggled. So the obvious question is, how many of these actually work?  The answer is quite simple - just like the claim from the developer, 99 % of them work and have a function attached to them. I was most impressed!

     

    As you can imagine from an aircraft from the era of the late 50's and early 60's you will be dealing with a steam gauge layout, no surprises there.  From the normal VC perspective and without adjusting the zoom levels at all, all the instruments and their labels are legible and easy to find and operate, except the ones very far from the immediate field of view, but there are not that many to be honest.

     

    I half expected a little bit in the way of cartoony instruments, but no, they are beautifully modeled and they look the real deal. Yes, maybe a little room for improvement texture wise here and there, but the package is excellent overall! My favourite instrument is the screen right behind the stick on the lower center of the screen, the radar. Have a look at the screenshots to see the photo real look of that monster! Glorious!

     

    As you would expect in a fighter, you are basically strapping it on, so everything is within easy reach and the perspective that you are getting from this VC is exactly that, close proximity to everything and that real “feel” for sitting in a fighter jet.

     

    The one thing that I did find missing though was the reflections off the bubble canopy on the inside of the jet. On the outside, the reflections are photo real and magnificent, but sadly missing that aspect on the inside, however, this is hardly going to be noticed, believe me! 

     

    So the inside is a masterpiece of graphical design and will be enjoyed by even the most stalwart and die-hard fan of the Starfighter, amazing job, another A+++!  Have a look:

     

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    Sound

     

    As can be expected, the switches and knobs make the usual click sounds, and the canopy can also be heard opening and closing. The engine sounds are right on the mark based on videos I have seen from YouTube as far as both idling and powering up and down is concerned. A little extra on the engine sounds, the compressor sounds at higher power levels are very dramatic and beautifully done, it really sounds great folks!  

     

    You would also be pleasantly surprised to hear that when you activate your ground power unit, it starts up very realistically! The flap lever and canopy open and close sounds are there too, and although I can hear the flap lever functioning I cannot hear the flaps running up and down, which kind of makes sense I guess. 

     

    Another thing that is very nicely modeled are some screeching sounds for the tires. One of the more interesting sound features would have to be the sounds of the pilot under high G-forces.  You know when you start to suffer, since the heaving breathing starts first followed by grunting and moaning from the pilot if you push it even further.

     

    Wind noise?  Not really an issue, since with your helmet on inside the real bird, you are not  likely to hear any wind noise rushing over the canopy. 

     

    All in all, the sound in the package is remarkably well done, and really does add to the immersion of the simulation. Trust me folks, you will be blown away by this sound package, pun intended! Another A+++ for the Skunkworks team!

     

    Lock & load

     

    Right, so how do we kit out our bird with what we need in the way of fuel and weapons? Easy - remember the configuration utility? Well, this pops up by itself when the aircraft starts up, and if it doesn’t, use Shift+F2.

     

    Okay so let us look at this smart little gadget in more detail. Let us say your aircraft has no fuel and we need to refuel the aircraft. Notice that in the bottom third of the configuration panel you will find 5 fuel cells labeled “REFUEL”. Above the center tank (there can be tanks on the wings too, depends on your configuration for the flight), you will find written in blue lettering “TANK”. 

     

    Wherever you see this indication, you click on the “REFUEL” cell below it and the aircraft will be filled with fuel for you. Neat! You can also watch the refueling by looking at the bottom right corner as the weight of the aircraft changes.

     

    Weapons? Depending on the aircraft type you are flying, you will find the various different armament types you can load in any station under the wing of the aircraft. Just click on it and presto, the armament appears on the wings and the aircraft sags a little further down on its suspension as the weight increases. Easy isn’t it?

     

    Flying the Zipper

     

    Now, as I said in the beginning, this is a difficult bird to tame. It would really be worth your while looking into the flight manual for all the little quirks in the handling of the aircraft that you will encounter and it will give you a monumental amount of respect for the guys who flew these fighters for a living! Folks, it is not that easy! You need to practice a little to get it right, no question about it.

     

    Okay so you are talking to your wingman as you are the instructor for today’s flight. You are telling your wingman how he is going to stay right next to you, a few feet apart and how you are going to nail those low flying radar evading and other aerobatic maneuvers you had briefed during the pre-flight briefing.  You arrive at your aircraft and the ground staff is scurrying around it, the ground engineers and mechanics doing their last checks and getting ready for you to get onboard the aircraft. You give your wingman a tap on the shoulder, and you start to climb the stairs and hop into your rocket.

     

    Okay, okay, obviously we don’t have a wingman and a walk to the aircraft, and there are no ground mechanics, but hey, we want to set the scene here right? Right!

     

    Okay, so you are inside the aircraft, and you start running your pre-start items. I give the ground crew the all clear and they connect the ground power unit to my aircraft. It takes a few second and then the aircraft has external power and the warning lights start to come on. Good, the aircraft has power - checked!

     

    Next we call up our aircraft configuration panel with Shift+F2 and we check that our fuel and weapons load out is right for the flight, checked.

     

    Next I start running the scans through all the instruments to make sure that there are no weird readings on those instruments before anything else is done. All looks good.

     

    I then check that my altimeter is set to the local QNH and that the reading it is giving me makes sense - checked.

     

    I now make sure that the APC cutout switch is guarded; the switch is on the lower left console and that my tank select switches are properly setup. This is important - you have to make sure that your wingtip tanks are feeding to the main tanks. If you don’t make sure of this, your main tank will run dry and you will sit with fuel in the wingtips but still get an engine flame out - you have been warned! Make sure they are correctly positioned!

     

    Next make sure that your fuel shutoff valve is guarded (that means closed). We check that the radar in the lower middle part of the cockpit is switched off and that the flaps are up. Next we make sure that the throttles are OFF and that the speed brakes are in.

     

    Another funny aspect of the Zipper is that the speed brakes are not operated by a separate lever, but rather a thumb button (like the hat switch on your joystick) so you will find it on the top of your throttle control.

     

    Next we check that the G-meter is reset and the chute is stowed. We then switch GENERATOR 1 and GENERATOR 2 switches to ON, which means we make sure that the guards are down. These are located in the bottom right hand corner of the main panel. So far, so good!

     

    Next we switch on our INS system, which control button is located on the right side panel, and the switch is obstructed by the canopy lock ad unlock lever. When we switch it to standby, the light illuminates steady amber.  Keep it there; we will get back to it in a few seconds.

     

    Next we check that the pitot heaters on the same right side panel, little further down this time, is OFF. Good! Next we configure our NAV and cockpit lighting as we require it, and that concludes the pre-start checks. Once you get proficient in this it will take you all but 30 odd seconds to run through, and it makes perfect sense if you think about it.

     

    Picture two jets on a runway waiting to scramble, the siren sounds, and you jump into the cockpit. No time for spending minutes and minutes to get the aircraft airborne, since by then you will have been bombed to kingdom come on the runway!

     

    Next is the engine start. Now, bear in mind that what I am going to describe here happens in a matter of a few seconds, so you have to practice it, get efficient in monitoring everything properly and you ideally have to memorize the procedure as there simply is not enough time to sit with your nose in a checklist whilst all of this is happening around you in the engine instrumentation. Be vigilant!

     

    Right, here we go. We flick the starter switches (situated at the top left panel on the main panel by using a LEFT CLICK. A right click would switch it off again, just for reference. Once the engine reaches 10% we advance the throttle from OFF to IDLE position. We now keep a hawk’s eye on the fuel and engine temperature gauges, making sure that they increase and that they do so within the limits. We then check that the engine instruments meet up with certain requirements as listed in the checklist before turning off the engine start switches.

     

    At this point the ground power unit will also automatically disengage. It caught me off guard the first time since I thought the engine was shutting down again! I now salute the ground crew, the signal for them to take away the support equipment and ladders.

     

    I lock my cockpit canopy and get ready to move on to the next checklist which is the after start checklist. This requires me to move the INS switch to ALIGN, which causes the light to switch from amber to steady green. We switch on our radar set our radios and anti-ice equipment, check our speed brake movement by extending and retracting it. Good so far. 

     

    We do our flight control checks, set our trims, toggle through the stability control dampers, check our APC readings, check the various settings on the flaps and make sure the movement is correct. We then switch the INS to NAV mode when the green light flashes.

     

    We are good for taxi.

     

    I like the feel of the aircraft on the ground. You need very little thrust to get it going (bearing in mind these beasts, as with most other combat aircraft, have very high idling N1 percentages), and it feels nimble on the ground as you would expect. It won’t stop dead like most other default aircraft when you cut the thrust back to idle but there is still a bit of FSX’s incomplete ground model in there, so it will stop quicker than one expects. Don’t throw it around the corners either, as you really get that “my wheel might lift” feeling if you speed around the bends!

     

    All that said, ground handling is pretty much spot on in my opinion, and no I have never flown a Zipper before, but one can form a bit of an idea of what it should be like, and this certainly satisfies that idea, if that makes sense!

     

    During the taxi I have to check a few more things. I check that the brakes are working, the anti-skids are set to ON, the flight instruments and gyros all respond properly when rounding the bends and that the nose wheel steering is engaged. Done.

     

    So my wingman and I get our clearance to line up alongside each other and I run my final checklist for the take off. I confirm that my external tanks are feeding (if applicable), I recheck flaps set to take off, confirm that the speed brake is retracted, the canopy is locked, the radios are all confirmed set, I recheck my stabilizer trim, set the pitot heaters on and set my auxiliary inlet doors to AUTO (check guard down), and that completes the before take off checks.

     

    I now need to make sure the engine is what it should be. I advance my throttle to MIL, and once it reaches 93% I close it back to idle. I make sure that the fuel flow and oil pressure is where it should be. I look over at my wingman, and he confirms that he is ready with a thumbs up sign. 

     

    At this point the tower clears us for the take off, unrestricted climb. Now, you cannot simply ram the throttle fully forward as you would do in a Concorde or a newer fighter jet. No, no, no! First we advance it to the MIL position. The engine has to meet certain parameters as indicated within the checklist. If it does we advance the engine to the minimum afterburner position, and if it meets the normal standards set by the checklist, we can open the throttle fully. This also needs to happen fairly quickly as the aircraft will be accelerating quite nicely by the time you have the throttle all the way up.

     

    Now what about our take off speeds and weights I hear you ask? Well, I pulled out the take off data sheet for the aircraft before departure. Since I am not kitted out with external tanks or weapons, my DI (drag index) is zero. My weight is close to 21600 lbs, so my take off speed is 182 KIAS.

     

    If I now reference my outside air temperature, which is 23 degrees centigrade and I decide to use 25 degrees on the chart, I see the following:-

     

    1. I can use 101% for the take off power setting.  I have to make sure that my EGT falls between 653 and 678 degrees centigrade.

    2. I will require about 800m for the take off run.

    3. My RS (refusal speed), which is the highest speed at which I can abort the take off and have enough runway left to stop is 188 KIAS.

     

    Now folks, from what I could tell during various take offs, this information is quite accurate!  This is an aircraft that can and really should be flown by the book.

     

    This is not just data I sucked out of my thumb, this was actual temperature and load out information and the figures I calculated was based on these figures. There are a few minuscule differences from time to time, but nonetheless it works the way the data sheet says it should.

     

    Okay, so everything is normal and the take off run progresses easily and without a hitch. The take off instructions are to further assume our take off attitude (9-10 degrees nose up) 10-15 KIAS before the 182 KIAS take off speed. So once I hit 170 knots I begin the rotation to that attitude.

     

    The rotation is smooth and sensitive (remember, this is a fighter, not a 747), and I easily hold it there until the aircraft lifts itself clear from the runway. Once I confirm positive climb rate, I retract the gear. Initially in ground effect, the aircraft will battle slightly for velocity, but once you start to break free of the ground effect, expect fairly rapid acceleration.

     

    Now for the shocking bit - the checklist instructs us to retract the wing flaps - at a MINIMUM of 260 KIAS! Wow, okay, so I let the aircraft accelerate to 275 KIAS and then retract the flaps.  The margin is safe and the aircraft starts accelerating even faster now.

     

    When blasting through 300 KIAS I check that the auxiliary inlet doors are closed.  Phew, all of that happened way quicker than it looks like in my write. Always think 5 steps ahead of this aircraft and practice, practice, practice to get it right!

     

    That concludes all the checks and we are climbing, unrestrictedly to our playing field, our block of airspace that the ATC has assigned to us for this exercise. My wingman is right next to me, climbing with me.

     

    We now accelerate to about 430 KIAS before dropping the nose to 5 degrees. We then cut the afterburners and climb at around 0.85 Mach. This we hold until reaching our cruising altitude.  Up until now everything I described to you comes right from the manual and no, it is not just the recital of the manual, I tested it against the climb I just described to you.  

     

    Good so now it is time to put the Zipper through its paces. The manual gives me all the relevant information I need to check when doing the following maneuvers:-

     

    1. The wingover;

    2. The loop.

     

    That doesn’t sound like much but getting that right according to the specifications, takes some time and practice, and hones your flying skills for properly flying various different patterns and maneuvers.  I will not go into the details here, but suffice it to say that yes, it operates very closely to the information in the manual.

     

    Good, so my wingman and I have done out training mission and we need to head back to base, and land the old bird. How do we accomplish this? Whilst we are descending, we check our pitot and anti-ice systems and we make sure that they are operating properly. We finally check our fuel quantity and fuel system operation.

     

    Today we want to do a nice and efficient descent, so we set the throttle to idle, we keep a clean configuration, no speed brakes, and we maintain 275 KIAS in the descent. Wow, we are getting a very efficient descent and the rate of descent is a lot more than you would expect! Keep an eye on that.

     

    The air force base I am using for this exercise, has an altitude of 100 feet (97 feet actually) AMSL. Now I need to start preparing the aircraft for the landing. 

     

    Now folks, a word of caution here - watch your angle of attack with the eyes of a hawk! When you start to hit 3 - 3.5 degrees, you had better start getting some flaps out or you won’t be holding altitude for much longer. Flying this bird requires extremely careful energy management and as I said before, it is very much akin to flying a delta wing fighter. This will also become evident with the landing speed as we shall see shortly.

     

    I now try to operate the landing part of the flight as closely as I can to the Zipper for dummies profile. Since my air force base is at 100 feet AMSL I descend to 2 600 feet, as suggested in the manual, a pattern of 2500 feet. I also keep my airspeed close to the 325 KIAS (goodness me!!!) as suggested by the manual.

     

    I have to say monitoring speed is not so difficult with this aircraft. As long as you are flying pretty much straight and level, maintaining speed is not too difficult. Just keep your eye on that angle of attack all the way down to the runway! I also set the flaps to the take off position.

     

    I overfly the runway and as soon as I feel good for the barb reversal, I follow the instructions to bank 60 degrees and pull no more than 2G’s. If you do more than that you will begin losing altitude and regaining it whilst keeping decent velocity will require excessive thrust! Keep it gentle. The aircraft is sensitive enough not to have to overfly it to get the desired results.

     

    Once we feel comfortable, we turn back to the runway on an intercept course for the runway to act as our base leg. I start to slow to 250 KIAS. This is where things start to become a little tricky and the balancing act between maintaining altitude and reducing speed to a point where I can begin the approach begins. And trust me, when you start throwing gusting winds and the like into it, it becomes a tricky balancing act. It is not impossible, so don’t be scared off by that and think that you are never going to be able to land the aircraft, but it sure is a challenge!

     

    I check that my gear is down, the anti-skids are operating. Once you are on final but below the glides slope, reduce speed to about 210 KIAS and extend the flaps to landing flaps. Once you start to go into the glide slope, maintain around 175 - 180 KIAS depending on your weight. This is the trickiest part of the operation! Managing your energy curve and staying on the glide slope at the same time, requires precision and lots and lots of practice! But trust me, you get the hang of it eventually and it is a very rewarding experience when those wheels touch down and you know it was a good landing!

     

    As the runway gets closer I am sitting further forward in my chair - I’ve got this under control...  Steady....  There we go, we are at about 50 feet now, thrust idle, nice pull on the stick, and we touch down, deploy our chute and open the air brakes. It takes a bit to come to a stop from that speed, remarkably akin to the classic deltas! 

     

    Now, there are several aspects of the profile that I didn’t cover, like the profile for supersonic flight climb etc, but I would need twice the space this review is to occupy if I were to get into every minute little detail, so I will stick to the basics of flying and maneuvering this aircraft.

     

    As expected, taxing in and shutting it down is pretty straight forward. Just follow the checklist!

     

    Overall on the flight model, I cannot fault anything. The INS probably aligns itself too quickly, but apart from that everything looks and works like the real deal. This is an amazing simulation of this aircraft, and whether you are starting out or a Starfighter know-it-all, this will satisfy your desire for a realistic model, no question about it!

     

    She’s a handful but it is a real joy once you start getting it right.  Another A+++ for the Skunkworks team.

     

    Weapons systems

     

    Now for the other really fun part of this aircraft. Live ordinance that can be fired! Yes, you have air-to-air and air-to-ground ordinance. You also have a radar system that can be fired up and works like the real deal.

     

    Now, I will not go into the systems in detail here. Why? Simply because it is quite complex and requires a bit of explanation on the functioning thereof; you must study the manuals to make sure you get it right, there is no other way! Remember when I said this is a study simulation? There you go! 

     

    I will say that the weapons systems function properly and the special effects are quite dramatic; I was pleasantly surprised and very impressed. There are limitations here and there due to the FSX environment, but they are few and you need to follow the steps outlined in the manual properly to get it working.

     

    As is clear from the above, this is a systems intensive simulation. Again, I want to use the Falcon 4.0 for FSX approach here. The weapons systems really come into play as I would imagine when flying in multi-player environments, which I did not play with. 

     

    This is the most realistic FSX simulation as far as weapons system usage that I have come across. I was astounded at what the developers achieved with this package. But wait, there is more...

     

    The radar

     

    That beautifully modeled display sitting just behind the stick on the main panel, this is the radar and it fully functions in two different modes:-

     

    1. GMP mode (ground mapping pencil); display, underlying the ground with different miles, range and MTI capabilities; and

    2. Air-to-air mode, including search, lock-on, attack and break away representations using AIM9-B/L missiles, which means that a complete attack and intercept mission can be flown with this aircraft just like in the real thing.

     

    This means that the little fire reticule on the glass in front of you is obviously linked to the radar!  That means that the target range information is also at hand for you.

     

    It takes a while to get your head around this, but when you do, it is so addictive that you simply cannot let it go again! Another breathtakingly real addition to this aircraft, again adding to the already immersive package as outlined above.

     

    The inner workings of all of this are explained in detail in the documents accompanying the aircraft. Simply astounding, fantastic job, another A+++!

     

    Performance

     

    My test system is a Core2Quad 2.83GHz with 6GB RAM and a GeForce 480GTX with 768 MB RAM. On my system, performance was as smooth as silk, no matter which airport or what the weather at that facility was. I never dropped below 35 fps and when you are up there in the clouds, it is far more than that.

     

    If you have a half way decent FSX rig, you can run this, no worries! As always though, stick to the developer’s recommendation for system specifications.

     

    Conclusion

     

    Before I write my closing remarks on this aircraft, watch this video by the developer on YouTube:

     

     

    This should give you a good view of anything that I missed during writing up this review!

     

    Now for the closing remarks...

     

    Publisher: Sim Skunk Works
    Platform: FSX
    Format: Download
    Reviewed By: Werner Gillespie

    Let me start of by saying that this is certainly one of the most difficult reviews that I have written for AVSIM. Why? This aircraft does for fighter aircraft and the fighter pilot convention of simmers, what PMDG does for the airliner fraternity, that’s why!

     

    What I tried to do here is give you a basic overview of flying this aircraft whilst having a look at some of the wonderful features of the aircraft. It was difficult to decide which aspects to briefly outline and which to go into more detail. What do I want you to learn or discover by yourself and what should the review encompass - it was almost as difficult as the balancing act described for the landing phase!

     

    In conclusion, I can only say that this is positively one of the finest FSX add-ons I have ever come across. Would I recommend this? Absolutely. Now, for the next question?  What about the price?  Here is a surprise for you - it is donation ware!  That’s right folks, no typo here, it is donation ware.

     

    This beauty will set you back only 20 Euros. Reasonable? Not really, the developer is the one losing out here! What you get for 20 Euros is worth so much more than that, and I think any Zipper pilot who has discovered this little gem will agree.

     

    This package has been put together with a lot of love and passion for this bird and it is clear that careful attention to detail was paid by the developers.

     

    I can also add that I had quite a few questions for the developers and I was in direct e-mail contact with Mario. Positively one of the best support systems I have had to use, believe me.  You can add to the community of pilots who are on their forum and you will find an answer somewhere!

     

    The package is complete. I absolutely loved the experience in flying and reviewing this aircraft. If you are even remotely interested in this aircraft buy it, don’t even think twice, you will have a blast with it!

     

    What I liked about it

    • Extremely realistic FDE
    • Wonderful sound package
    • 99% systems fidelity
    • Working weapons systems, including target radar
    • Price!
    • Inclusion of a functioning GPU
    • Extensive documentation to get you going, including a “for dummies” supplement to get you into the basics of flying the aircraft
    • Complete package that captures the heart and soul of this aircraft

    What I didn’t like

    • Nothing!


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