The Buccaneer S1 was developed as a British low level strike aircraft with the capability of delivering nuclear strikes and served with the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force between 1962 and 1994. The aircraft also saw active service during the Gulf War in 1991.
This was Britain’s answer to Russia’s Sverdlov class cruisers. These posed a serious threat to merchant fleets in the Atlantic and the British wanted to be able to counteract the Russian menace.
The South African Air Force was the only other country to operate this aircraft. Certain modifications to engine power had to be made in order to make the aircraft usable in South African conditions, which are typified as “hot and high altitude”.
The SA aircraft saw active service during the South African Border War, most notable was the battle of Cassinga in 1978. They operated over Angola and Namibia during the 1970's and 1980's and attacked SWAPO camps with bombs and rockets.
I was fortunate enough to live near an airbase at the age of 4, and I remember three very distinct types of aircraft, since we could make them out clearly after taking off: one was the Sabre, one of my favourite jets of all time; the Impala used for training missions in the air force (and also the official aerobatics aircraft of the air force’s aerobatics team, the Silver Falcons), and then the Buccaneer, of the three, the one with the most distinctive and fascinating shape!
I also vividly remember living in Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, during the Border War days, where it was always possible to hear these aircraft operate somewhere as they were coming and going from bases to conduct their operations.
Installation and documentation
The file you download is a modest 68 MB file. Once you start the installation, you are not required to enter a license key at all. You simply confirm that you wish to proceed with the installation, and point the installer in the direction of your FSX directory, and presto, you are on your way.
Installation takes only a few seconds to complete and there are no vices to report during the installation process. You will find that once you start FSX, you are required to allow three .dll files access to operate in FSX, which are:-
2. Ballistics.dll; and
They control certain key functions of the aircraft, but more on that later!
Once the process is completed you can go straight to your FSX\SimObjects\Airplanes\Buccaneer folder where you will find the following documentation:-
1. A 33 page flight manual; and
2. A reference sheet containing frequency and channel pairing information, TACAN and DME.
The manual of the aircraft deals with the following:-
1. An introduction to the aircraft;
2. Installation notes;
3. Aircraft configuration;
4. Reference cards;
5. How to operate the airbrake lever in flight;
6. A short explanation on carrier ops; and
7. A systems guide.
I found that the manual was to the point, and without over complicating things, the message is brought home. When running through the systems in the manual, where applicable, the noteworthy differences between operating the aircraft from a carrier and on a runway are highlighted so you can safely perform either one, but again, nothing is explained in an overly complex style.
I do have one gripe about the manual though, and it is a serious one - it doesn’t take you through a detailed tour of the weapons system of this aircraft, or more specifically, how to set it up and deploy the munitions, and it is quite different from modern day military avionics! I had to get my guidance from a fellow Buccaneer fan over at Mutley’s Hangar, Kieran Marshall. (link http://mutleyshangar.../km/buc/buc.htm)
Right off the bat, this aircraft comes with an actually deployable weapons system To equip your aircraft with weapons and fuel, set the parking brake and press Shift+1. This will give you a weapons and fuel load out, which you can then deploy during flight - exciting!
Another nice feature is that the wings actually fold and unfold like the real thing (for carrier operations obviously- just don’t forget to extend them before attempting a take off!)
Now let us take a look at the aircraft...
The dimensions and the general look of the aircraft have been accurately modeled. You also get 4 different variations of the aircraft. They are:-
1. 800 NAS, a Royal Navy variation;
2. 801 NAS, also with the Royal Navy;
3. 809 NAS, also with the Royal Navy, this one in a white paint scheme; and
4. 736 NAS, also the Royal Navy, this one in a more “carrier type” paint scheme.
In general about the exterior? It is highly reflective, maybe not 100% up to modern modeling standards, but still beautiful to look at! All the parts are there, they look it and they behave like it - one of the most impressive features of the aircraft as far as I am concerned, is the rear speed brake which opens to the sides. The animations for the control surfaces are all there and they certainly look the part!
One thing is certain - you are looking at a Buccaneer, no question about it. Have a look at the screenshots below:
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In flight, you will also notice that the bomb bay doors are animated and you can see them opening and closing. So do the gear bay doors, but that you expect, right? A slight bit of wear and tear can be seen around the edges of the rivets and lap joints, very subtle but noticeable. Very nicely done! However, you will not see extensive wear and tear on the airframe.
A lot of effort has also gone into the repaints to get them realistically done in accordance with their real world counterparts.
All in all, I was very impressed with the exterior and I certainly liked what I saw!
First off, there is no main 2D panel from which the aircraft can be flown. You have to fly it from the VC. This is fine though, since the VC is very nicely done. Again, it won’t blow you away by modern day modeling standards. It looks very FS9'ish, but having said that, the instruments are clear and legible.
I found that the slightly older textures of the cockpit did not in any way detract from my enjoyment of the simulation - no sir! As you also would expect, this is not a modern day flying computer - the instruments are fairly basic, apart from operating the weapons systems.
The aircraft has a sliding canopy just like its real world counterpart and this is also fully simulated by using Shift+E.
You also have fully animated throttles on the left pedestal. You will find the occasional switch not modeled, but in general the VC is fully functional and easy to use. The full forward view over the panel and onto the runway reminds me a bit of the older Mirage jets in instrument layout and cockpit philosophy.
When using night lighting, the aircraft is covered in a sort of darkish red, which oddly gives the cockpit a very warm and “utility” feel to it.
And yes, you can also switch to the rear cockpit which has been equally impressively modeled. I did not spend much time there though. What I did notice was that there are a few switches that don’t function.
I found the interior to be very well modeled and a joy to work with despite the slightly older textures. Also, older textures are not synonymous with rushed or half-baked work. This cockpit is a masterpiece!
Here are some internal shots of the aircraft:
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Final verdict on the VC - older textures, yes, but a masterpiece nonetheless.
So how realistic are the sounds in this package? I had a look at some of the cockpit and exterior videos available on the net. I have to say, I was quite impressed by how realistic both the interior and exterior sounds are, in particular the engine sounds!
I initially thought that the sounds that came with the package did not do the bird justice, but I was humbled by listening to the real thing. In my opinion, the developers have done a great job with the sound package of this aircraft.
The normal sounds you would expect to find are also all there - the gear and flaps, although I cannot tell how accurately they were done.
The only thing you won’t hear is when the speed brake is deployed, that doesn’t sound like anything, it just slows you down.
Right, so how does she fly then? Firstly, you have to remember that this aircraft is one of the earlier jets, so it is sub-sonic. It is also not overpowered for its size and despite having two engines, the aircraft’s acceleration is what you would expect from an older fighter type aircraft.
So please don’t expect to be fully loaded, screaming down a hot and high runway and be airborne in F6 Lightning fashion, because that is not going to happen!
Now, once in the aircraft, you simply press Shift+2 to bring up your “knee board” which displays reference information for flight. This is where you can find all the performance data you require to fly the Buccaneer accurately and by the book.
Startup is quite easy, although the placement of the fuel cock switches and the starter switches makes things a little funky. If you follow the cockpit familiarization screenshots in the booklet and the procedures outlined in the reference manual, you shouldn’t have any difficulties at all.
As for flying it, there is a very basic autopilot and as long as you use it according to the restrictions in the manual, it works; but honestly, once you are flying a fighter jet, who wants to use an autopilot, right?
So how about the flight model? It is brilliant! I found that it is a little sensitive in pitch, but if you play around with your FSUIPC or your actual controller settings, you make things easier on yourself.
The aircraft has noticeable differences when you are using flaps and gear, which is nice since it is obvious that those protruding little things will cause a change in the flight dynamics of the aircraft. What was also noticeable was the amount of power needed to taxi. Not sure if this is accurate, but there you are.
The general feeling of the aircraft on the ground felt nice and real. When taking off with full fuel and an armament load, it is a good thing to just hang around a bit in the ground effect, raise the flaps and gear and pick up some airspeed first before climbing away. Considering this is an older aircraft we are dealing with and the far less powerful engines in comparison with what we have today, this makes sense and the feeling of the aircraft whilst accelerating and being in ground effect, was quite realistic!
Another very nicely modeled feature is what happens to the aircraft’s performance after weapon deployment - the aircraft is much more maneuverable as the effects of the much lighter aircraft become apparent. Very nicely done! The effectiveness of the air brake is very noticeable too!
Landing this aircraft was a little easier than I expected, and it doesn’t take that much practice to get the energy management right and to get a feel for the handling of the aircraft. It is a beautifully stable aircraft. When flying fighters, I always like a flatter, faster approach with a very satisfying, firm touchdown which is very easy to fly in this bird.
Taxiing in and shutting down is straightforward, just follow the reference sheet on your kneepad to do so.
Again, this aircraft is capable of operating on both land and on a carrier. It comes with an arrester hook for carrier operations, although I did not test this out and stuck to flying land based approaches.
The aircraft is a little gem to fly! I really enjoyed it and I spent quite a bit of time in the front office just doing low flying, steep climbs and descents, doing a few split-s maneuvers and barrel rolls... Pick a fighter move, any fighter move. The aircraft is docile, yet incredibly maneuverable and so I spent a lot more time doing flight maneuvers then dropping bombs.
Speaking of dropping bombs, apart from the fact that losing the weight has a drastic effect on the aerodynamics of the aircraft, the effects of a nuclear weapon exploding is quite nicely modeled too!
Final verdict? Flying the aircraft is a joy in all flight regimes. There are really no serious vices that I could find anywhere with the flight model when operating it within the prescribed limits. Bearing in mind obviously that I don’t have any real world stick time in one of these beauties, I cannot say how accurately modeled the flight model is, but I enjoyed it all the same!
On my Quad Core Q9550 with 768 MB GeForce 480GTX and 6 GB RAM, I didn’t have any difficulties with my performance at all. My frame rates never dropped below 30 fps, even on the ground and it shoots through the roof when flying the aircraft.
Due to the more basic textures used in this package, I don’t believe anyone who can run FSX fairly decently should have any difficulty in running this package smoothly.
I liked it very much! The package as a whole is very nicely done, and you will very often find that one aspect really stands out but the others don’t quite catch up to it. That is not the case with this package.
The sound, the weapons, the flight dynamics, the interior and exterior, it all comes together to deliver a very nice and rather realistic rendition of its real world counterpart. It is (apart from the weapons systems which might take some time to get down), not an aircraft that you will need an Oxford degree to operate in FSX, but I believe that a real Buccaneer pilot will find the essence of the aircraft in there somewhere.
Is it worth the $15.00 (US) that you will spend on it? Absolutely! In fact, I think you are getting far more than your money’s worth on this one.
What I like about it:
1. An actually working weapons deployment system;
2. The price;
3. The flight dynamics, although maybe a little sensitive in pitch;
4. Very nicely done interior and exterior;
5. The sounds are quite realistic;
6. It is adaptable to both carrier and land based ops, just like the real world aircraft.
What I didn’t like:
1. The textures in the VC are just a little too basic according to modern standards, although this doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the simulation too much, if at all.