In those heady days of the 1950's, hardly a month passed without an exiting new military aircraft taking to the air for the first time. Fuelled by the ever present fears of the Cold War era, aircraft development was at an absolute fever pitch for over twenty years. Aircraft were designed, flown and were declared obsolete in half the time it takes to get a 21st century warplane off the computer screen!
The F11F Tiger entered service with the US Navy in 1956 and less than 4 short years later was relegated to training duties, thanks (in part) to the speed of aircraft development in the late 1950s. Grumman’s long history in the field of naval aviation led to the company investing their own money in a design study for the possibility of developing their F9F Cougar into a low drag supersonic fighter in 1952.
It was soon clear to the engineers that an entirely new aircraft was required and the resulting new product was, the graceful Grumman Tiger. It took to the air in July 1954, less than two years from the commencement of the aborted design study. After the usual prototype teething troubles, this supersonic fighter entered US Navy service in July 1956. The aircraft was powered by a Wright J65-W-18 turbojet (a licensed version of the British AW Sapphire) complete with an afterburner giving 10,500 lb static thrust. Armament was provided by four 20-mm cannon mounted in the lower edges of the air intakes. In addition, four Sidewinder infrared-homing air-to-air missiles or two Sidewinders and two 150-US gallon drop tanks could be carried on under-wing racks.
Within a short period of time, the US Navy decided that the aircraft’s front line service life would be a short one. By 1958, some of the early aircraft had been assigned to advanced training units and the end was in sight for the F11F-1, at the sharp end of naval aviation. A lifeline was thrown to the Tiger in 1957 when its superb flight characteristics were recognized by the US Navy display team, the world famous Blue Angels.
This team gave thousands of amazing displays from 1957 until 1969, when the Tigers were retired in favor of the mighty F-4 Phantom. Many aviators of the past thirty years must have been given their first taste of the excitement of flight from witnessing these agile (if obsolete) Tigers being put through their paces by the team. Many young fighter pilots also have great praise for the Tiger during the early 1960s, when it was used as an advanced trainer.
While its short service career took place at a time of world peace and the aircraft was never used in anger, it did manage to earn its place in the history books, albeit for a bizarre reason! In 1956, while diving his Tiger on weapons trials, pilot Tom Attridge actually managed to maneuver his aircraft into the path of his own cannon shells, fired some seconds before. The pilot survived but his F11F-1 Tiger was severely damaged in the ensuing crash landing.
Purchasing and Installation
For those simulation fans captivated by this period of history, Phil Perrott and his team at AlphaSim have, for many years, been a popular location for purchasing well made and reasonably priced add-on aircraft. The Grumman F11F-1 was an ideal subject for AlphaSim and after seeing the initial screenshots, I realized my credit card was needed again!
Buying AlphaSim aircraft is reasonably straightforward. Initially you need to create an account for yourself; this makes any future purchases easier and any fixes or updates will be made available to you via this account. After inputting your card details on their secure site, you are given a password and download code which you then take to the site’s download area (please write these codes down on paper, just to be on the safe side) to retrieve your purchase.
Once this has been done, you should download both files in your download page (one for FS2004 and one for FSX) each about 18 MB. Even if you do not yet own FSX, it is best to get the aircraft now and save it to a CD. If you fail to do this, AlphaSim allows three downloads of each file in total. The files are standard zip files that need to be unzipped straight into the root of the FS2004 or FSX folders. Simple it may be, but I would have preferred an automatic install option as many people still find any file management intimidating. For an experienced FS user, the purchase and installation was perfectly simple and straightforward.
Many artists will tell you it helps to have an attractive model when creating a portrait; the same rule can apply in computer 3D modeling and the designers at AlphaSim have used this to their advantage. In real life, the Tiger was a classic beauty; simple lines and sweeping curves, this model captures this elegance perfectly.
The aircraft comes with three default paint schemes, the Blue Angels aircraft #6 in clean configuration; an operational fighter armed with 4 sidewinders and an auxiliary fuel tank equipped aircraft which comes with its own (less agile) flight model. Apart from the famous deep blue and yellow scheme of the display aircraft, Tigers tended to wear the light grey and white scheme of this period. These however, are enhanced by some colorful embellishments such as a fantastic set of snarling teeth and flashes.
A visit to the Avsim File Library will also enable an F11F-1 owner to acquire a splendid Day-Glo paint scheme by Russel R. Smith (from the aircraft’s time as an advanced trainer), which, to my eye, is a fantastic looking scheme. AlphaSim have raised the bar recently and this great looking model is a perfect example of just how good their aircraft now are. All the expected animations are present for a carrier-borne aircraft including an animated pilot, tail hook deployment and wing folding.
In The Driving Seat
On entering the cockpit, one first notices the wonderful reflections on the instrument faces, these look very realistic indeed. All the normal advanced cockpit animations (including moving levers and switches) are present, enabling the aircraft to be flown entirely from the virtual cockpit. The cockpit sidewalls look a little too empty to be totally accurate, but the overall feel of the cockpit is good. A typical AlphaSim 2D panel is supplied, complete with a good variety of pop-up sub-panels to complement it. The view forward is very good, allowing carrier style approaches to be made without too much drama; as in real life, practice makes perfect. Gauges are smooth and the frame rates are pretty much on a par with MS default aircraft.
In The Air
After spending a few hours in the virtual cockpit, I can easily see why this aircraft served the Blue Angels so well and for so long. If you enjoy performance aircraft of this period (like the F100 or Hawker Hunter), you will love flying the Tiger. Landings take a bit of time to master, as (like the Hawker Hunter) the aircraft has quite a long fuselage and it is very easy to hit the tail bumper on the deck or runway.
AlphaSim have even added a short video to the instructions to illustrate the correct method of arrival, without creating an unwanted drainage channel in the asphalt at the same time. In this same sub folder (which is found in the aircraft folder, after unzipping) you will also find a short but well written and illustrated guide to get the most out your new purchase. While it will only take a few minutes to read, it does give some useful information and is well worth looking at.
Sound and Effects
The AW Sapphire engine was a large and rather noisy beast. The US developed version was apparently no different and the supplied sound file gives a very good account of itself in reproducing this Tiger’s roar, especially if you have a sub-woofer speaker fitted to your system!
I must also give a special mention to the superb effects now being supplied with AlphaSim products. Their effects guru has made an afterburner that glows and changes intensity as it builds thrust, eventually it even emits fiery sparks embedded in the inferno. The over-wing condensation effects also made me smile when I eventually discovered them; however, if you are pulling this sort of maneuver you really shouldn't be popping outside to have a look! These wonderful effects improve the product mightily.
The F11F-F in FSX
is sold as being compatible with both FS2004 and FSX, with installation
being similar; but without having the hardware in place to make FSX
really shine, I have only spent a short time with the aircraft on
this new version of the MS simulator. The head movement effect present
in FSX makes aerobatics a little more enjoyable
for those with a strong constitution and the frame rates compare
well with slightly more complicated default aircraft. If you can
Lear in FSX, you will have no problems with the AlphaSim Tiger.
Over the past few years I have bought a lot of AlphaSim products; they have always given me enjoyment. Partly because their choice of subject matter appeals to my personal taste and partly because the price they charge seems (to me at least) to give good value for money.
With the recent improvement in modeling apparent in the Tiger, I find myself keeping a very close lookout for their regular releases. I, for one, am keeping my credit card at the ready for an impending F-89 Scorpion; another classic from this golden age of military aviation.
This is not the perfect aircraft for everyone that flies in MSFS, but if you love the Grumman Tiger or aircraft from this era, I suggest you pop over and buy the AlphaSim version. I cannot see an aircraft of this type being bettered in an awfully long time, if ever. I have not regretted my purchase for one second!
|What I Like About The AlphaSim F11F-1 Tiger|
|What I Don't Like About The AlphaSim F11F-1 Tiger|
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