The Third Report in our Preview Series
by Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth
Please note that this article, including screenshots and videos, is based on a beta version of the software. Features and content of the final product are, of course, subject to change.
That has been the overwhelming response to my previous two articles on flying the Ka-50, so who am I to go against the masses? While I would venture to say that, in reality anyway, learning the systems, how to fly, navigate, and deal with emergencies would probably be of primary importance during flight training, the fact that this sexy beast is armed for bear is a hard temptation to resist. It’s also worth mentioning that just because a lot of us are enjoying the hardcore aspects of DCS: Black Shark, there are scalability options within the sim that will allow you to install the sim and blow things up to your heart’s content right off the bat. I’ve always enjoyed the slow and deliberate process of learning a new aircraft, and the Ka-50 is so intricately modeled that you can easily swallow up many hours just learning the basics. Once again, I’d add that my ham-fisted attempts at flying and fighting this sim are truly on the novice end of the learning curve. There are guys on the beta team whose fingers can dance on the controls and they can operate their sensors, target, engage, and evade all in one fluid movement. I’m not that guy.
On today’s flight I started with the engines running and all of the systems up and powered. This is a useful start mode for those that don’t want to go through the process of bringing the “cold & dark” cockpit to life. Not that a cold start takes that long actually, some guys can probably get it done in just a few minutes. For our purposes today I’ve loaded the Ka-50 with a load-out that would be somewhat typical of one a real combat Ka-50 would haul into battle, including the 9K 121 “Vikhr” (AT-9) anti-tank missile and B-8V20A rocket launcher pods carrying S-8 rockets. For our targets I just set up a very simple shooting range at an abandoned airfield a short distance away from our base. The flat and open terrain will make target identification and engagement very easy. I wouldn’t expect that a real mission design (especially one of Wag’s punishing ones) would make things so simple. In this mission we don’t have to deal with particularly heavy defenses, terrain problems, or other variables that would complicate things beyond my abilities. Additionally, I brought along an AI wingman so that I can start learning some rudimentary wingman commands.
As was the case in most of my flights in the Ka-50, I spent a good deal of time with my head buried in the manual making sure I was doing things correctly. I’m sure there are plenty of errors in both theory and usage in how I did things, but that is part of the learning process. Most of the time was spent focusing on learning to use the Shkval sensor and learning what the different HUD symbols and indications meant. Flying the Ka-50 requires a good bit of study to learn how to use the multiple systems to maximum effectiveness. I’ve only begun to scratch the surface and I’m excited to learn more about how the data-link and ABRIS capabilities work hand-in-hand. Frankly, I was just happy to get the sensors on the target, get the weapons armed, and get within release parameters!
The Ka-50 can be configured for multiple mission roles and the variety and combinations of weapons are impressive. For a rookie like me, stand-off weapons are probably the best bet since overflying the target area when you don’t know what you are doing is a recipe for disaster. As usual with helicopter sims, I can definitely see the attraction to the hunter-killer style of tactics that helicopter operations lend themselves to. Coupled with some crafty human wingmen, I’m guessing that DCS: Black Shark is going to be a huge hit with cooperative gameplay. In a future edition of our preview series I plan on covering multiplayer operations (if I can find someone dumb enough to take me as their wingman!).
One thing that is interesting about flying the Ka-50 is that it does embrace the single-pilot cockpit ethic that I find to be a bit puzzling. As someone who flies in real life with a multi-crew cockpit, I can’t tell you how invaluable it is to have another set of eyes, ears, and another brain assessing situations. Granted, my type of flying isn’t nearly as dynamic as a combat battlefield, which is why I’m even more impressed by the training and skill that real world single-pilot combat aircraft pilots must attain. I’m guessing that much of the burden, for me personally flying the Ka-50, is more related to unfamiliarity with those systems and features that are designed for the very purpose of relieving the pilot of many tasks. Autopilot modes, ABRIS capabilities, and data-link information from other members of your flight all combine to be a crewmember that just happens to not be present inside your cockpit. Even still, it is a divergence from flying with the aid of AI crewmembers in such sims as Longbow 2 and EECH, and it makes the flying and fighting much more challenging and immersive. I’ve only done very simple attacks and yet the immersion and feeling of becoming “task saturated” is impressive. Oh, that familiar ache in the shoulders is back!
The challenge now is to not only continue the learning process by getting deeper into how all of these things tie together, but to do it without forgetting the knowledge of past lessons. I can see now that I’m going to have to start taking less time off between flying missions in order to retain more of those nuggets of past information. It’s going to be embarrassing when I’m getting out-flown by community members just days after release when I’ve had months to hone that feather edge! I’m looking forward to delving further into some of these systems (particularly the ABRIS and data-link) and I’ll report back when I have a more useful video to send out.
Many thanks to Eric “EricJ” Johnson for the custom SimHQ training skin!
Stay tuned to SimHQ for future exclusive articles on DCS: Black Shark.
DCS: Black Shark – SimHQ Preview Video #3
The YouTube high resolution version is available here.
Download the high resolution zipped version (216 MB).
Reviewer’s System Specs
- Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700
- 4GB RAM
- BFG 9800 GX2 PCIe 2.0 (1 GB)
- Saitek X52 Joystick
- CH Products Pro Pedals
- NaturalPoint TrackIR 4:PRO™
Part One of the Black Shark Preview Series is here.
Part Two of the Black Shark Preview Series is here.
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