by Will Reynolds
During the latter stages of WW2, the Soviet Union only made fleeting glimpses at Jet fighters. Their research and development was far more focused on mass-production of contemporary fighters and the Achilles heel of their jet program was still a jet engine.
The end of WW2 provided the Allies with access to German research. The West took the scientists, and the Soviets took the plans, materials as well as prototypes.
The Soviet Union then accelerated research into German designs and coupled them with captured German jet engines. The result was not as successful as they would have liked.
The very first Soviet jet was the MiG-9, NATO codename "Fargo" (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikoyan-Gurevich_MiG-9) but this model merely showcased the difficulties the German research teams had already encountered. The engines were neither reliable nor powerful enough.
A request was made to the British government for purchase of the very basic but fully developed Rolls Royce Nene engine, and much to the Soviets' amazement, the British government agreed on the sale.
The Klimov company set out to reverse-engineer the Nene into mass production. The early tests forced the Soviets into abandoning the straight wing approach and settled for a swept wing, which closely resembled famed German designer Kurt Tank's (designer of the FW190 series) Ta-183 prototypes which never made it into production, but the Soviets had the plans in their hands.
In the 1950s, Kurt Tank, now living in Argentina, proceeded to develop his original Ta-183 prototype into the "Pulqui" fighter, also powered by the RR Nene engine, but only 5 units were produced due to political unrest. You can see the lines of both the Pulqui and the MiG15 originated on the Ta-183.
Back in the Soviet Union, the Klimov team started production of the Nene engine and it was fitted to the First generation of the brand new MiG-15 Fighter, NATO codename "Fagot-A". This first version introduced a Gun camera, ejection seat, advanced gun sighting system, boundary layer fences on the wings and was armed with 2x23mm cannons as well as the first version of the 37mm cannon.
The Nene was not without problems, as fuel consumption was quite high and maintenance time was also an issue. The Klimov bureau produced an upgraded Nene engine, called the Klimov VK-1 engine, which was essentially a Nene engine with some home brewed additions/modifications, and thrust upgraded to 5,962lbs.
This new VK-1 engine was fitted to an improved version of the MiG-15, now called MiG-15bis and NATO codename "Fagot-B". The new MiG-15bis had underwing hardpoints for external fuel tanks as well as bombs, as the Soviet Union Leadership made a specific request for the aircraft to have air-ground capabilities.
The good folk at Belsimtek have simulated the MiG15-bis version, known by NATO as the "FAGOT-B".
It comes in a 110Mb file ready to install. Currently, the model is accompanied by a "Quick Start" document which points out basic items of installation, controls and cockpit and systems familiarisation via lots of screenshots (very effective).
Since this is a BETA product, this is all that is officially available. Some very clever folk have uploaded very good documents via the Eagle Dynamics'/Belsimtek forums, and I can recommend "Chuck's" MiG15 Guide.
Very straight forward, if you download the package by itself from DCS or Steam, the executable will proceed to set the aircraft in a matter of seconds and you are ready to go.
At this point I would like to caution the readers. This is a Russian fighter, comes with a Russian cockpit and Russian mentality all through it. What do I mean by that? Everything was done with very little aesthetics, but plenty of practicality. This aircraft was made to be mass-produced and simple to maintain and it truly succeeded.
The external model is good. Very, very good. the textures have managed to give the look and feel of a very solid little aircraft, built with plenty of parasite drag yet menacing enough to want to try your hand at it.
Looking at the front, we can see the housing for the gun camera, great detail.
Control surfaces are very detailed...look at the rudder
They have also modelled the rudimentary but very effective visual check for flaps and gear. If you look at the top of the wing, you will see these little coloured "poles" sticking up. The front ones show gear down and locked.
And of course, it works....retract the gear and your visual safety indicator is retracted into the wing.
The flaps have a similar system. Their visual indicators were slightly aft of the gear indicators, and worked in the same fashion, if it is extended, the little pole sticks up. The more flap you lower, the taller it gets:
We can also see below, the detail behind the Speedbrake or Air Brake. In the real aircraft the Speed Brake was active only as long as the pilot held the switch, the moment he released the switch, the Speed brakes would stow. This is not modelled here, you have two settings, one to deploy and one to stow, but they are effective, and modelled nicely.
Now let's look at the "business end"..the cockpit...the graphics quality is very similar to the F-86 also by Belsimtek. Some people call it cartoonish, perhaps there is a little "too heavy" use of vivid colours which make quite an impact at first sight.
The vivid colours, although they personally felt a bit odd at first, look quite good up close. The MiG15bis cockpit is reasonably simple, nothing complicated. The basic premise is that when you need to start a certain system, you push ALL their associated switches up, no ifs or buts.
The below overview shows the left and right panels. On the right you find mainly electric controls as well as emergency flap and landing gear rotary valves (very prominent)
The left panel has mainly fuel switches and some pneumatics.
With Tool Tips turned on, you can also get indications of what the switches are for, in the cases below, the mouse button is hovering over some of the emergency handles and valves.
A close up of the forward section of the right hand side of the cockpit. Very detailed, and they have modelled the awkward access to the electrical switches on the right hand side. Note the two prominent rotary valves for emergency flap and gear.
To the rear of this section is the ARC5-K7 radio navigation panel..think of it as an ADF or sorts...great fun to operate.
A view of the left hand side of the cockpit. We can see the prominent throttle handle, as well as coloured flare dispensers, start, fuel, isolation and other switches. You will also find the radio communication controls.
A close-up view of the centre panel, with the instrumentation needed for engine management (right hand side), navigation and general flight. Very clear gauges, very functional.
The pointy end of the panel. The arming switches for your 3 cannons. You have 2x23mm and one 37mm cannons. Not much ammunition, so management is critical.
The weapons' advisory panel, situated just below the main centre panel, has the advisory lights for the cannons as well as some of the bomb switches.
The gunsight. In this case a Soviet ASP-3N reflector gunsight. It could compute lead just like the early US Mk18 Gunsight in the F-86A but did not have a ranging radar.
The round surface facing the pilot is actually padding to cushion the pilot's head should he have a forced landing. Soviet block pilots did not wear hard helmets in the early 1950s.
We can also have a closer look at the little details on the panel. Most if not all Soviet-era aircraft were dotted with manual safety links and switches. In the below screenshots we can see the manual latch to secure the landing gear lever in place.
Keep in mind that all instrumentation is of course, METRIC. So your speed is in Km per Hour, altitude in Meters, temps in Celsius, etc.
Light the fires and kick the tires:
So let's take the "midget" MiG out of the hangar...or try at least.
Having previously flown the LNS MiG21 I was fairly familiar with some of the logic behind this aircraft.
To simulate the aircraft start process, Belsimtek decided to provide you with a non- visible ground crew who will plug in the power cart. All communications are scripted and automatic, which is fine by me....we just want to fly, right?
But I still found this a nice balance between simulating the start up process and the inherent desire to get flying and do what a fighter jet does best...fly!
The start up process in itself is REALLY simple. First you turn on the electrical switches on the right hand pane (except battery)l in the order dictated by the checklist. turn on the fuel switches on the left hand panel, throttle to idle, starter on and open fuel shutoff valve to 50% until engine reaches over 500 rpm then fully open the fuel shutoff valve.
If you don't wish to do all this but just want to get going, you can use the automated start up sequence by pressing Left Win and Home keys, the option is there.
After starting the aircraft, you need to close your canopy, turn the valves for air and pressurisation, follow the checklist and you are ready to start moving!
It has a non-steering nosewheel, you need to apply power to your VK-1 until you get moving, get some momentum, and steer via rudder and pneumatic brake (handle is in the control stick, just like the MiG21).
Take off is fairly straight forward, steering is the biggest hassle. The engine is very slow to spool and respond which helps keep it on centreline, but it certainly takes practice and concentration. You pull the stick at about 180kph and aircraft should unstick at around 220kph.
We can now see the small visual cues for position of the gear and flaps at work. Since the gear and flaps are now fully retracted, the little poles are no longer visible.
Now we are in business! Flying this little machine was very nice. It is a lot less "twitchy" than the Sabre, but this also goes against it. The Sabre is far more responsive to fast manoeuvres but you can get into trouble really quickly. The MiG responds a lot slower to rolls and pitches but it is far more forgiving.
When flying the MiG15, there are 3 speeds you MUST remember....400, 600 and 800.....repeat ad-nauseum.....it will save your bacon. Why?
Without being very specific, anything below 400km/h you are looking at stalls, very heavy controls, and very slow reactions, in other words, let the aircraft get below 400km/h in a dogfight, manoeuvre, etc and you will be in trouble...the VK1 takes seemingly forever to spool up and mother earth doesn't like to wait too long.
600km/h is your "sweet spot"...it will vary with altitude, but it is a ball park figure, you will fight, evade and manoeuvre around this speed.
800km/h is your "top boundary"...any faster than this and you get compressibility issues....your ailerons will lock up, elevator is useless, and you become a passenger is a very fast, rapidly vibrating metal comet and scrambling to find the speedbrake controls is a common nightmare....
So, time to take this little rocket aloft, and also try out some of the repaints available:
Testing the guns....you can see the empty shells falling out
What about combat damage? Well, I was unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of a Sidewinder missile...picture speaks for itself.
Let's try a few things....the MiG15 is flying "clean"...stall test at just over 2500m of altitude.
Recovery...just on 1000m but did not enter a spin, the left wing dropped gently.
Let's go a little higher...stall at 6500m. Again the left wing dropped, but not violently. No spin.
Recovery took a little longer...
Reached high altitude....started having a play above 10,000m and the handling is noticeably different. You have to be a LOT gentler with the controls or the aircraft will protest, but nothing really drastic, I found it rather forgiving. You can also activate a "G Meter" display to assist with measuring the stress you put on the aircraft, which is neat, but I prefer to fly it without.
While we are at altitude, I decided to have a little play with the systems. I turned off the Oxygen Supply valve as well as the Air Valve. Basically I de-pressurised the aircraft!
The Oxygen regulator stopped, which is correct, and I was expecting a "black out" effect of sorts or any other effect but it didn't happen.
However, a very neat feature came up: you have a semi-interactive guide. Notice on the top left of the screenshot? It tells you what you need to do to get systems you may have forgotten to set and it encases the appropriate switch in brackets so you know exactly what you need to touch.
Tested firing the guns at altitude...the effect was really neat, but I was expecting more from the N37 cannon. This weapon was notorious for its massive recoil and low muzzle velocity...basically the reports from the Korean War stated that unless the Mig was right touching you, the N37 projectile would most likely pass under your aircraft. In the Belsimtek MiG15 the N37 projectile has basically the same range as the N23, but let's see the good folk at Belsimtek come up with in later updates.
Another neat feature present in a lot of the aircraft for DCS is having your "virtual body" present in the cockpit...it is a feature you can select or deselect, but it adds a nice effect. Note "your" hands move in whichever direction you move your controls, it follows you quite accurately, so you can see the hand of the virtual pilot moving the column, your left hand on the throttle, and your virtual feet will replicate whatever rudder inputs you are commanding.
And like the good saying goes...All the fun stops when your feet touch the ground....Landing this little aircraft was not as hard as the MiG21 but you still need to be careful as you rely solely on its pneumatic brakes which feel very "spongy".
DCS is still a niche market, but a market that is visibly growing. The quality and quantity of add-on modules now available is truly appetising, and when we see what is being developed you really have to be excited for the future of this combat simulator.
The MiG15bis provides a good sparring partner for those who looked at the Sabre, love the Korean War vintage series, or those who are curious about the ubiquitous MiG15 and its significance to the Jet Fighter era.
The Belsimtek MiG15 is by no means a finished product, but judging it by what we already have, and what Belsimtek have done for their catalogue of already released products, we can expect updates to come and make this an even more appealing product.
What I liked:
- External textures are very nice
- Flight model and aerodynamics are good
- Frame Rates are good without being overly generous
- Detail of Damage modelling
- Ease of learning
- Navigation and Radio comms systems replicate real counterpart.
- A joy to fly
What can be improved on:
- Aerodynamics and stall characteristics need to be tweaked, I was expecting to see the famous and deadly "MiG15 Spin".
- Some systems and switches operate but have no effect either on or off, as with the Sabre, I expect Belsimtek will be working on this.
- Official Documentation needs to be improved. Currently you only get a "Quick Start" guide but the great DCS community has provided some fantastic videos and guides.
- Training missions.
Overall, I have to admit to having a soft spot for this little bird, and also have to admit to enjoy flying it more than the Sabre! Sure there is work to be done, but what is there already will not stop you from enjoying it today.
From me, a thumbs up, and hopefully two thumbs up when Belsimtek start rolling the updates.
Pulqui and Ta183 pictures from WikiPedia
Many thanks to Matt Wagner for providing a review sample of the product