MiG21bis for DCS by Leatherneck Simulations
A review by William Reynolds
The MiG21 is arguably the most iconic Soviet-era jet aircraft. It came from an expanding variety of designs by the Mikoyan Gurevich Bureau.
Born out of a 1953 Soviet requirement for the first Mach2-capable Fighter/Interceptor for Front Line Soviet use, the Mikoyan Gurevich Bureau set to work on their "next step."
Their production line already had the MiG17, a rugged, improved, and advanced version of the MiG15, but still only subsonic. Their newer offering, the MiG19, was a bigger evolution again: a twin jet fighter, capable of sustained Mach 1 flight. What was needed now was a mix of Interceptor/Fighter with impressive rate of climb, and able to be upgraded to newer armament (missiles) when those became available.
Initially the Mikoyan Gurevich Bureau studied an expansion of the MiG19 shape, but this was discarded in favor of a Delta wing. It offered better fuel storage, as well as more hard points for weapons and fuel pods. The Delta wing also offered great climb rates, but at a cost of maneuverability.
Mikoyan Gurevich's lack of experience with Delta wing design and operation saw them adopt a "hybrid" Delta. Normally the large Delta wing negates the need for Horizontal Stabilizers, but in the MiG21's case, these were added, as all-moving surfaces.
The aircraft was initially fitted with only 30mm cannons, which were later changed to a single 23mm version. It was not until 1960 that the Soviets were able to produce their first Air to Air missile, courtesy of a Chinese fighter which returned to base with an unexploded Taiwanese AIM9B Sidewinder missile in it. The Soviets were able to copy most items in the missile, except for the seeker and the propellant. The new Soviet missile was designated AA2- Atoll in the West, and for the Soviets it was known as K13 or R3. This was quickly followed by the improved K13A (R3S), which saw widespread production.
A Semi-Active Radar Guided version entered service in 1966, known as the K13R (R3R).
Deliveries of the new Interceptor to the Soviet Air Force began in 1957, and its first public appearance in 1961.
Original versions of the MiG21 had a "Bubble" canopy, which hinged to the front. Later versions added a dorsal "hump" and a redesigned canopy, visibility was reduced and the canopy hinged to the right side of the cockpit, but endurance was increased.
Several variants of the MiG21 were produced. Leatherneck Simulations brings us the 3rd Generation of this aircraft, produced from 1972 onwards; the MiG21bis 75AP model fitted with the Polyot ILS system, and designated "Fishbed-N" by the West.
Production was only terminated in 1985, when over 10,000 aircraft had been built!
Leatherneck Simulations (LNS) is a new developer for DCS-World, and the MiG21 is their very first product. The LNS team is made up of 4 very talented individuals of different nationalities, one of whom is a real life MiG21 pilot, and responsible for the flight model.
What did they simulate? Details below are from their website:
- ARK-10 Radio Direction Finder
- RSBN-4N Radio Navigation System
- RP-22M "Sapfir" Radar
- SAU Autopilot, including e.g. auto-landing and recovery modes
- NPP and KPP Instruments
- ASP-PDF-M Gunsight
- SARPP Data Recorder
- RSIU-5V Radio
- SRZO-2M "Krom-Nikel" Identify Friend-or-Foe ("IFF") System.
- SPO-10 "Sirena 3-M" Radio Warning Receiver ("RWR")
- Air-to-Air Missiles
- R-3R APU-13MI
- R-3S APU-13MI
- R-55 APU-7
- R-60A x 2
- R-60A APU-60
- R-60M x 2
- R-60M APU-60
- RS-2US APU-7
- FAB-250 M54 TU
- RBK-250 PTAB-2.5M
- FAB-100 x 4
- FAB-500 M62
- RBK-500 PTAB-10-5
Simulated Nuclear Bombs:
- UB-32 – 32 S-5M
- UB-16UM – 16 S-5M
- KH-66 "Grom"
- 490L Wing & Centerline droptanks
- 800L Centerline Droptank
- SPS-141-100 Electronic Warfare & Chaff/Flare Dispensing Pod
- ASO-2 Chaff Dispensing Pod
- SPRD-99 RATO – Rocket Boosters
- Crew: 1
- Length: 15.0 m (with Pitot) (49 ft 2.5 in)
- Wingspan: 7.154 m (23 ft 5.66 in)
- Height: 4.125 m (13 ft 6.41 in)
- Wing area: 23.0 m2 (247.3 ft2)
- Empty weight: 5,339 kg (11,770 lb)
- Gross weight: 8,725 kg (19,235 lb)
- Powerplant: 1 x Tumansky R25-300, 44 kN static thrust dry, 71 kN static thrust with afterburner
So what exactly does this mean, one may ask? Honestly, until I was offered the chance to review the MiG21, I had never considered loading a Soviet-era jet in my PC. All the specifications listed above meant very little to me, so dear "Mr. Google" was a very close friend indeed for a while!
LNS tell us what they have packed in the heart of the simulation, so how do you start?
This aircraft is designed to work in DCS: World, so if you wish to experience this machine, you need a copy of the base Simulator, which is a free download from Eagle Dynamics' website. Once there, you purchase the MiG21 as an extra Module, or you may also purchase via STEAM.
The aircraft file is a 330Mb executable. Once installed, it provides you with a 183-page manual in English, as well as Chinese and Serbian.
Minimum system requirements: OS 64-bit Windows Vista, 7 or 8; CPU: Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz; RAM: 6 GB; Free hard disk space: 10 GB; Video: 512 MB RAM card, DirectX 9.0c - compatible; Sound: DirectX 9.0c - compatible; requires Internet activation.
Recommended system requirements: OS 64-bit Windows Vista, 7 or 8; CPU: Core i5+; RAM: 8GB; Hard disk space: 10 GB; Video: Shader 3.0 or better; NVIDIA GeForce GTX560 / ATI 6950 DirectX 9.0c or better; Sound: DirectX 9.0c - compatible; DirectX: 9.0C; requires Internet activation.
The aircraft is still in Advanced BETA stage. There has already been a patch released for it, and I believe more are expected soon.
As far as first impressions are concerned, being a raw recruit, I was left scratching my head when I first loaded the cockpit.
The exterior model is absolutely incredible. The level of detail, the movement of the control surfaces, and the sounds--I think the sounds alone transport the user into a Turbojet era, powerful hum of the engines, you can almost smell the fuel!
Notice the tires? The model with no weapons and the model fully armed. The tires show the weight as you have loaded the aircraft
The all-moving tail-plane
Now a closer look at the cockpit…the main panel, situated with a slight offset to the left to accommodate the RP-22M Radar scope.
The two larger round instruments (prominent one above the other) you will use the most. The one at the top is the “KPP Gauge”, which is essentially your HSI, it shows bank, pitch and slip indications as well as the directional needles for the Nav systems. It has an auxiliary back up in case of system failure.
The one below it is the NPP course system. Look at it as an all-inclusive Gyro-Compass, it will give you current Magnetic Heading, work as an ADF or VOR receiver.
Around these two instruments, you find (in smaller size), the VSI, Radio Altimeter, Pressure Altimeter, ASI, Mach meter and a few other gauges and instruments for Missile control.
Now let’s look at the very first Soviet Airborne intercept Radar fitted to a fighter. The RP-22M “Sapfir” Radar was state of the art in the 1950s, although quickly surpassed by equipment fitted to Western fighters of the same era. It is a basic system, which will scan a 30 Degree arc in front of you, up to 30kms (although effective range is closer to the 22km mark). The radar can be elevated up to 17 degrees and down to 1.5 Degrees. Like all radars of its vintage, it was not very effective with targets flying below its level, as it picked up the clutter from the ground, and sometimes even clouds. It is fitted with filters which you can activate to attempt to clear out these returns, but keep in mind this is first generation stuff.
Having said that, it is still simple stuff. You have clutter? Push a button, it helped? Great! It didn’t help? Fly lower. Simple really.
The Radar is the heart of your ability to find and engage targets in the MiG21. Things happen very fast, and fly very fast. Learning to use this simple piece of kit is vital, and surprisingly, it is not hard to master. Switching on the radar is one simple “flick-switch," then it goes through a warm-up phase of up to 5 minutes. On Standby Mode, the radar will remain “On,” but not active. You can keep the radar in Standby Mode for up to 45 minutes. You only have up to 25 minutes use of the radar as it uses liquid coolant (Alcohol) and it will only last for 25 minutes. After your coolant runs out, there is no more radar.
Immediately above the Radarscope you will find the “Radar Countermeasures and Auxiliary Control Panel”. It holds the Radar Self-Test buttons as well as switches for IFF (Identify Friend or Foe), passive and active jamming.
To the right of the Radarscope, from the top, we have an RSBN Distance Indicator (think of a Western DME), Engine RPM Gauge, Exhaust Temp Gauge, and Fuel Quantity indicator.
Now let’s look at the side panels, on the left you will find the main Engine and Oxygen controls, flaps, autopilot and Radio Navigation. Also prominent are the Russian designer’s love for safety covers (switches). On the far right of the picture you will notice the Gear lever. Rookie mistake number one… before pulling the gear up, you must first unlatch the safety cover. THEN move the Gear Lever up, wait for the 3 Red lights indicating gear is retracted, move the gear lever to the Off position, and move the safety latch back to the On position.
Just ahead of the throttle lever there is a big Red triangular object. This is another Safety Cover, for the release of the Chaff/ Flares (Countermeasures). If you don’t open the cover, nothing will come out!
Other items of note are the two levers to lock and pressurize the canopy once you close it, as well as the control for the Drag Chute (Landing is not quite the same without it….). Why does it need a Drag chute for landing? Well the brakes are Pneumatic (great sound effects, too!)…and you may run out of compressed air. To be honest, trying to stop just with brakes alone is not a good thing for your blood pressure.
Also, towards the middle of the picture you will notice 3 vertical buttons, they look like they were stolen from a very old typewriter. They are your Flap selector. The rightmost button is “Flaps UP”….the Middle is Take Off flaps, and the Leftmost is Landing Flaps. Simple.
Moving to the right hand side. This panel has all the switches needed to turn On/Off the aircraft’s systems. It also has the Radar control panel, Radio Channel selector and ARC (Automated Radio Compass) station selector. The ARC is an interesting system. It has a preset amount of radio frequencies stored (up to 72), divided in sectors, sub sectors and channels. Think of it as an automated, yet very basic at the same time, ADF system.
This panel basically controls the lifeblood of your aircraft. You power up the batteries, generators, provide power to the weapons pylons, even heating for your missiles!
The Pilot’s Control Column (Control Stick) has a few interesting items. Big black button on the right engages Autopilot “Recovery” mode. This is basically a Heading and Attitude reset mode, the aircraft will level, but it is up to you to apply the power to maintain this. The Red button on the right disengages the mode. Also, the button to jettison the central external fuel tank is located on the front side of the stick, separate from the wing tank release switches located on the left side panel of the cockpit.
We also see the trim control, Radar lock on button and weapons release controls. The Vertical lever at the front of the stick is the Gear Brakes handle. No brake pedals on the MiG21, to apply gear brakes the pilot would squeeze the lever closer to the Joystick, and you can hear the audible noise as the compressed air does its job.
In front of the Control Stick (and obscured from view of the pilot) you will find the weapons control switches. This is a rather important panel, the top row of switches are for Emergency Missile Launch, as well as the “Master Arm” switch. If this particular switch is not in the UP position, and its indicator light is glowing RED, any bomb you release will simply not explode.
This panel also has the control of the heating for Pitot and AOA sensors. The dominant part of this area has the Warning indicators for Pylons and Weapons.
And let’s look at the “pointy end”…the HUD and weapons selection/targeting system. This section (situated to the left of the HUD) has the Missile Master Mode Switch, Air to Air Missile type selector, Gun control button as well as a rotary selector for Pylons and weapons types. It really looks far more complicated than it is. You have an air to air missile? Put the switches in that position.
To the right of the section we see two round dials. The top dial is the nosecone position indicator. It will show the extension of the nosecone in percentages. If the automated nosecone system fails, you are in for a rough ride!
The bottom one is the ARU-3VM gauge. This device will show you the ARU ratio between the stick pitch and horizontal tail movement. I have to be honest, I have done a few flights to understand this, but I am still not exactly sure how to use it.
On the right side of the HUD we use 3 gauges….from the top, the RWR receiver. It is very basic, will make a noise and indicate approximate bearing to a threat looking for you.
Below the RWR receiver is the Accelerometer, and to the right is the Angle of Attack gauge.
Now let’s look at the centerpiece….the HUD and associated switches.
On the left of the HUD, the switches you will use the most a mission. The top switch allows you to select guns/rockets or missiles. The next whether you are firing or bombing, and the last if you are using auto or manual aiming. Simple?
Just below you will also find switches for target range and missile firing range, not needed if using radar. You also have a vertical lever to choose missile or gyro mode, on the opposite side of the HUD there is a similar lever, for turning pipper on/off
Now let’s look at the “glass” bit and immediate surrounds. The HUD is fairly basic but very functional, if you have selected the pipper to ON, and selected an Air to Air weapon (even guns in Air to Air mode), you will see a floating reticle looking for the settings you selected (if you dialed in a distance, etc). For Air to Ground delivery, you get either a fixed sight for strafing or rockets but it changes to a floating pipper for dropping bombs in dive mode, especially if using your radar in Beam mode, to provide range to the ground.
Below the HUD glass you will find two scales, which will show scale, distance and angle.
Does it all sound too complex? It actually isn’t. It is a fairly simple machine to operate. It has its weak points and strong points, just like any other, but it is a fairly “analogue” machine. You wish to achieve something? Flick the switch for it. That is that. No multimode stuff, no second or third page for it with 10 different modes, none of that.
How about a flight? Well, let's light the fires and kick the tires.
Starting up this aircraft was easier than many I had seen before, either in DCS or FSX. Basically flick the power switches on your right hand panel, move the throttle lever forward from cut-off, turn on the APU and press the starter button for about 4 seconds-done! Once you setup the power distribution, you are ready for systems.
If you were making a proper sortie, you would start by “marking” your radio stations for the flight and set them up. Also, at this point it is a good idea to turn on the radar, as it will take a while to warm up. Close the canopy by removing the rod locking the canopy in place, and secure the latches to lock and pressurize it. Set flaps for takeoff (press the middle button).
Now we are ready to go (remember this is an interceptor…fast scrambles were the name of the game). Taxiing this aircraft can be a hard work if you let it get away from you. You must advance the power and gather speed to have at least some rudder input. The nose wheel is free-moving, so nice and wide turning movements are advised until you get the hang of it. Another thing that helps is applying wheel brake (it does not have differential wheel brakes) until the slightest movement of the nosewheel is effective, but you must be careful not to use up all your compressed air.
Taxi into position, lined up and get ready. Some people (like me) prefer a rolling takeoff, whilst others prefer to set the brakes on, apply afterburners, release the brakes (I found the brakes fail to hold the aircraft on afterburner anyway) and hold on tight!
The acceleration is impressive, even when fully loaded. The noise of the burner adds to the sensation of acceleration. You pull gently on the stick at around 280 kms per hour and the aircraft should lift off around 300 - 350km/h (depending on load).
On positive rate of climb, retract the gear (remember to unlock the latch)….the gear has to swivel as it fits in the wing root housing. Set the gear lever to Off, latch and retract flap at 100m of altitude (press the flaps up button) now you start to really accelerate!
Getting some altitude and airspeed, we remind ourselves of a few golden rules: 400K/h is the speed I must not go below….at or below this speed, control inputs have a “lag”, the aircraft will bleed energy faster than at higher speeds and you can get into serious trouble. Climbing to 5000m, accelerate to 800k/h and you have a real bullet at your command. It climbs well, rolls and breaks. Another golden rule….turns of more than 4G will bleed off energy faster than you will be able to recover quickly. The aircraft can achieve 8G in a turn but cannot sustain it, the Delta wing was not designed to dogfight, it was designed to climb, descend and fly fast.
For a real “buzz”…try flying at around 1300k/h (700 knots) and treetop height.
Try going at twice the speed of sound.
It is a good rocket-launching platform
Dropping a pair of 500kg bombs.
Using the radar, in this screenshot, I have found two targets, they above me as representedby an inverted "T". If they were below me, they would show as an upright "T".
Put the target in front of the direct beam and lock it on. The view now changes to show lock on mode with range indication for your weapon. Simple, but effective. It is very easy to lose the lock, however, you must maintain the target in front of you (straight ahead).
Firing an Air to Air Missile
And finds its target, an unmanned drone for target practice.
Let's break the golden rules, so what does it do if you pull as many G's as possible whilst supersonic?
Started Blacking-out at 5G's, speed around 1200km/h. I guess I pulled too hard, by the time I started to regain consciousness, the aircraft was inverted, I had lost the rocket pods (they cannot take more than 3G's) and was too low to recover.
Ok, so what about the landings? Well, I have performed several, and they are still a mixture of terror and exhilaration. You really need to get used to the beast. You fly a fast approach, and it just sinks! You need to set up your approach and stabilise it for the downhill ride, aim for that runway and monitor it closely. It is a fast touchdown, deploy the drag chute and you should not have to rely on brakes (hopefully).
Conclusion & Recommendations
Like I said at the beginning, this is not an aircraft I would have chosen to add to my collection. I knew very little about it except for the stereotypical propaganda: “Poor visibility”, “no systems”, “not as good as the western aircraft”, etc. etc. So I started researching this aircraft - both the actual aircraft as well as its virtual representation for DCS- and if you look at the many YouTube videos and documents available on the Internet, it is hard not to be enthusiastic about it. I saw some very good videos, including one of an actual evaluation of a captured MiG21 by the US Air Force, and they were rather impressed.
The MiG21 belongs to the era owned by speed, radar and missiles. It was believed by the Warsaw Pact and the NATO alliance that dogfights were a thing of the past. Missiles would be the way to go. The aircraft that flew fastest, engaged first and flew highest would win. Or so they thought.
Setting up a dogfight against the MiG21’s contemporary (the F4 Phantom) in DCS is great fun. Neither turns rather well, but if you manage the energy better than your opponent, you will come out on top. No F-15 or F-22 performance here…you get too slow and you will either end in a spin or a stall. You need some skills to get out of those situations, and better skills yet, to avoid those situations altogether.
The DCS forums have some capable people who are taking on F-15s and F-16s with the MiG21 and coming out on top. What a challenge!
So what exactly is the Leatherneck Simulations MiG21bis? Simply put, it is an accurate representation of an iconic aircraft from the Cold War. The Soviet aviation equivalent of the Soviet Army's AK-47. An aircraft that did not require hardened aircraft shelters, it could be left outside in the harsh winter conditions, and it would still function first thing in the morning. An aircraft that could be started and airborne within a matter of a few minutes, and climbing to high altitude.
This is a machine that represents the Soviet cutting edge technology in the 1960s. It features a basic but functional Radar, which can be used to guide Semi-Active Radar Homing missiles, provide range information when bombing, finding targets in a discovery cone ahead of you. All great stuff for its time.
You can experience taxi conditions which can be quite tricky, with a non-steerable nose wheel. Take off with or without afterburner and experience changes in behavior depending on load. Also, try a RATO (Rocket Assisted Take Off) scramble, to get the heart racing.
Make use of the Soviet Navigation systems which are roughly equivalent to the West but must say are very practical. You can practice NDB let downs, ILS approaches, radio navigation, create your own scripts for GCI (Ground Controlled Intercept), and so much more.
Experience a rather unique flight envelope, unique not only because this is a unique aircraft, but because it has been meticulously researched and implemented. I cannot think of another supersonic (especially Mach 2 capable) jet available for any simulation platform in the last 20 years that can match this package.
Learn to use Cold War era missiles, perform ground attack missions with rockets/missiles cannons or bombs, intercepts, dog fights etc.
Experience flying at amazing speeds, either at high level or ground level, learn to manage your fuel consumption, watch your angle of attack, your G counter, beware of adverse effects on your engine or airframe (engine will flame out under certain conditions), and look out for a very good damage model.
Plan and execute your approaches in an aircraft that can be unforgiving at slow speeds.
In a nutshell, this is a very good, complete and immersive product. You want realism, accurate systems, good performance plus a learning curve that can be as steep or as comfortable as you can make it? Then look no further.
As you may have noticed, I am using an English cockpit mod (aircraft comes with a realistic Russian language cockpit). The cockpit tool tips do provide information but I found it far easier to learn the layout of the cockpit if it was in English. Yes, I know I am defeating a level of realism here, but you have the option, which is great.
Aircraft is an advanced BETA. It has already seen a good sized update from the developers which improved cockpit frame rates as well as aerodynamic issues, and expect more to come but there are some bugs yet to be ironed out.
Some of the cockpit texturing can be a little blurry, specially zooming in. This has not bothered me much, I simply think of it as “realistic 1950’s cockpit workmanship replicated"
There are some issues with wind reaction when on the ground as well as excessive bounciness on take off and landing rolls. Expect patches for these.
Issues with some switches, which lose effect after some time during the mission.
All in all, very minor issues. The developer is working diligently improving the frame rates in the cockpit (was not an issue for me) as well as responding to feedback and requests via the DCS forum.
Should you get it? Well, if you wish to have an add-on meticulously coded to represent its true life counterpart, then absolutely Yes.
Caveats: You need to be willing to go for quite a ride. You will learn systems most of us had not been exposed to or heard from before. They are represented very accurately and supported by a very well written manual.
You will also fly an airplane that has peculiar handling characteristics, a challenge that has been accepted by many and provides a massive amount of pride and satisfaction at being the "chosen ones" to master this aircraft. Can you join this elite club? Only you, the reader, can answer this.
Me? Another Mach 2 ride is waiting….