Original, SP3 and SP4 F-16 Comparison
Here is a diagram that shows the evolution of the default F-16 from the original, through SP3 to SP4:
In this set of curves, I haven’t shown the CAT 1 limit for the F-16 for the reasons explained earlier and also because the CAT 1 limiter hasn’t been employed consistently through each version. Even so, this overlay does give an insight into the way the data has changed, and the effect that has had on the sustained and instantaneous turning ability of each of the default F-16s. The important thing to notice from this set of overlays is that the SP3 F16’s zero Ps curve (shown in brown) was a major departure from the original (green) curve. Notice that both the original green and current blue zero Ps curves fall off dramatically below corner velocity, while the SP3 zero Ps curve did not. That of course resulted in dramatically different handling characteristics. The original Ps = 0 curve behavior was, when compared with the real F-16 EM diagram, closer to that of the real F-16’s zero Ps curve and so the SP3 flight model was, I believe, a step backwards.
Hardly surprising then, that the SP4 zero Ps curve (shown in blue) is much closer now to the original green curve, particularly below corner speed… You might be getting the feeling that we have been riding our flight models around in circles, if you can forgive the pun. The point is that, in terms of the low speed sustained turning ability, the current default flight model has now taken positive steps back to where it started. The shape of the current Ps = 0 curve, as with the original, now demands proper energy management. Remember, I mentioned the dramatic effect on aircraft handling characteristics? Well, you can now no longer simply hold full aft stick, as you could with the SP3 flight model, and expect to get good results. In SP3 you could simply hold full aft stick to achieve the best sustained turn rate, and while that certainly made it easier to fly, it removed the skill required in learning to hold just the right amount of back pressure to achieve the flight conditions for the best sustained turn rate. With SP3, everyone became a good stick overnight. So fortunately, the SP4 flight model has corrected this behavior and it is now as it should be, once again. There is of course, room here for more detailed discussion of the development of the various Falcon 4.0 flight models, and possibly some EM comparisons to the real F-16, but that would be more appropriate for another article. The point to take away from all of this is that the Falcon 4.0 flight models are evolving, and they are getting better. The work of the guys involved in developing the flight models is difficult, and thankless, and generally the good work they are doing, in my opinion does not get the recognition or appreciation it deserves, but I digress, let’s get back to the fun stuff.
MiG-29 v F-16
So what about the MiG-29 v F-16 within visual range engagement? Here is a Sea Level EM diagram overlay from the original game…
These two aircraft were clearly closely matched, with just enough of an edge to the F-16, in terms of its low speed sustained turning ability, to make it a tough fight, but close enough so that if the player made a mistake, the Artificial Intelligence could take advantage and clean up. It was tough, because you can see from this diagram that the MiG-29 still had an instantaneous turn rate advantage, but the fight was always a lot of fun, because you could win.