I broke the trigger on my VKB Gladiator joystick while flying a particularly intense IL-2 career mission. I popped on to the VKB online store and ordered myself a new one so that’s not really the story, but I thought it was a funny way to tell another tale about the IL-2 Career mode.
731st IAP PVO squadron
I started a career on the Stalingrad map and rather than choose a typical fighter career, I decided I wanted to fly the P-40E-1 in some desperate battles over the beleaguered city.
I’m about 6 missions into this Career and my pilot is doing fairly well. Thanks to the P-40s tough airframe, I’ve managed to survive direct hits from Bf109s and still escape back to home without crashing or dying. It’s been a tense career but one filled with some successes too.
In an early bomber interception mission, we were able to pinpoint the location of attacking Ju87 Stukas and dispatch them with few losses. Still, we are loosing P-40s at an unsustainable rate and numbers are beginning to dwindle.
The escort mission
Our next mission is an escort job covering a formation of Pe-2 bombers.
Immediately after take-off we use what climb abilities the P-40 has to climb to altitude and try and catch the Pe-2 formation. They were flying fast and the P-40 is not great at climbing and building speed so we caught the formation about the time two things happened. First, the formation crossed the Volga. Second, it came under attack by a flight of Bf109 fighters.
My flight quickly broke to attack. I stuck close to the bombers and tried to catch a Bf109 on an attack path. He actually made it through the bomber formation without causing damage or being hit by defensive fire – both were a surprise to me.
By this point he performed a Split S and tried to make it towards the ground. Without wanting to chase, I made a long range (about 600 meters) deflection shot as the Bf109 was beginning to tuck over into his Split S.
The bullets hit their mark and the Bf109 was critically damaged, crashing sometime later.
Moving back towards the formation things got more chaotic as more Bf109s joined the fray. This time, they were escorts for a Hs129B-2 attack group. The ensuing melee had Pe-2, P-40, Bf109 and Hs129 all caught up in a frenzy.
I found myself separated from the bomber formation after dodging an attack. But this put me in range of the Hs129 flight. The P-40s six .50cal machine guns helped me make short work of two of the attackers.
The Bf109s were now even lower and caught up in the swirl of aircraft flying near the Pe-2s target. A Bf109 made a combat turn towards me and I performed a similar move. As the two aircraft flashed past each other I yanked the stick back to try and get a snap shot… I pulled the trigger and this is where it broke.
VKB Gladiator quick aside
I’m a fan of the VKB Gladiator. I bought the Mark I stick not too long after it came out and wrote a whole review of VKB’s entry level stick more than a year ago now. If there was a concern I had about the stick, it was the cheap feeling plastic trigger. The rest of the stick is built with higher grade plastic that is hard and durable with switches that give me little in the way of concerns.
VKB themselves recognized that this was a problem after launch and corrected the problems with the trigger in the Gladiator Mark II. The revised trigger is made out of a more flexible and break resistant material. They also offer a replacement metal trigger although its harder to find in stock. Also fortunately the new (and improved) trigger is $7 or $10 for the metal one.
My experience so far, having just ordered a new trigger and having talked to VKB’s support, has been excellent. They were quick to respond (even though its a long weekend) and my order should ship tomorrow.
I also want to say that it strikes me as a good thing that a company that does more industrial style design made sure that pieces on the Gladiator could be removed and replaced as needed. Other VKB (and VIRPIL for that matter) sticks are fairly easy to service and the companies even provide details on how to do that so that you can customize the sticks as needed. I love this model of doing things and I have to hand it to them for making it possible.
Back to the mission
With my ammunition supply still at approximately a third left and my P-40 still fully functional I recognized that I was still out of the fight and that I was time to disengage and return to base. My wingmates would have to cover the bombers.
I made a hasty retreat back across the Volga river and towards home base.
After landing I examined the broken trigger. It had broken into two parts in a weak spot on the plastic.
The Pe-2 strike mission went according to plan and they were able to return to base without too much more trouble after I had to beat a hasty retreat. I lost two P-40 wingmates in the process but… the mission was accomplished and my virtual pilot is still alive.
For now I’ve had to rebind my keys so that I can fire forward facing guns again. But I’m also taking it as an opportunity to fly some more bombers and I’ve flown a few missions in the He111H-16 bomber now – something I may not have gotten to for months. More on that in another installment.