Deka Ironworks is squeezing a new Flaming Cliffs 3 level aircraft into DCS. The Su-27SK, or rather the Shenyang J-11A, is coming to DCS and it will represent the first flyable Chinese military aircraft for the series.
China operates a series of Flanker derivatives including the J-11, J-15 and J-16 in a few different versions. The J-11A was a license build version of the Su-27SK, produced by Shenyang, and very similar to the Su-27S that we currently fly in DCS. Similar, but not the same, and it appears that Deka Ironworks has put in a lot of effort to model all of the differences to this aircraft.
In an update posted today on their Facebook page, the modeler for Deka Ironworks laid out some of the key differences with the J-11A from the Su-27S we know.
Some of the differences are quite small like a slightly different arrangement of antenna along the nose section. The nose gear Taxi and Landing Lights are of a slight different configuration. The J-11A also has formation lights, similar to the F-15, Mirage, and other aircraft in DCS that the Su-27 does not have.
There are also small changes to the cockpit canopy using better glass (so no yellowing) a RKL-609 ECM pod (apparently better than the L-005). There’s a a new dual rack pylon available for rockets and bombs that is not available on the Su-27.
Most of these are subtle yet important changes for people who love details. One of the biggest changes is the ability to carry and launch the R-77 missile. That is probably going to get some attention.
Currently confined to the MiG-29S in DCS, the R-77 is a medium range, BVR, fire-and-forget missile and the ability for any Flanker to carry it has been oft requested by fans of Russian aircraft.
Plans are in the works for a cockpit update to support some of the changes within the cockpit on the J-11A not found on the Su-27 but that will likely come later.
There are other updates mentioned so definitely check out the full report from Deka Ironworks on their Facebook page.
Courting the Chinese Market?
There are definitely Chinese flight sim fans out there (900+ views on Stormbirds from China just in 2018) and just like fans in other countries, being able to fly your own countries air force can be a fun thing to do.
The J-11A is, like other FC3 level aircraft, slightly simplified in operation versus other full DCS modules and that makes it another selling feature for people trying to get into DCS.
Deka Ironworks continues to trickle out updates on their JF-17 ‘Thunder’ module which is being modeled to that higher fidelity DCS World module level. The JF-17 offers that next step up for fans of Chinese aircraft who want the full fidelity experience.
Deka has also announced that they intend to add AI versions of the J-10A, JH-7A and H-6H. There’s at least a possibility too that these could become flyable modules at some later date.
Nothing is stopping (to the best of my knowledge anyways) Chinese DCS fans from buying and enjoying other modules either but the recent increase in Chinese military hardware into DCS certainly opens the door to potentially more interest from that corner of the world – and more sales for Eagle Dynamics.
At one point, questions were asked if any FC3 level aircraft would ever be added and the answer appeared to be no. Fans also wondered if a Su-27SK with R-77 missiles would be an option and if memory serves (I can’t find the specific forum post where this was answered) the answer to that was also no. This turn-around, if it is one, is certainly interesting to me.
A change to the “meta” of DCS multiplayer
I don’t use this term around flight sims very often because I think its a poor description of what is going on but I think I need to wheel it out here.
In many competitive multiplayer games, players often talk about the “meta” which roughly translates into the big picture concept or an abstracted concept behind how the game works. Distilled down to the simplest explanation, what we’re talking about is rock, paper, scissors.
In DCS multiplayer for the last decade or more, the background to REDFOR vs BLUEFOR air combat has been the F-15C and its active radar AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles (typically B and C versions) versus the Su-27 and its mix of R-27 semi-active and infra-red missiles. The AIM-120 comes with some pretty big advantages in theory (although various modeling issues for missiles has been discussed) as an F-15C can effectively fill the sky with AIM-120 missiles and then beam a target defensively.
The Su-27 has its own tricks with the IRST allowing for more stealthy kills without the use of active radar. When paired with the R-27ET IR missile this can be a potent mix.
This is all to set the stage for the introduction of the J-11A with its active radar R-77 missiles. The MiG-29S already carries these missiles but with its more limited range tends to be forgotten in these discussions. It also carries a max of 4 of these missiles while the Su-27SK and J-11A can carry 6 matching the F-15Cs ability to carry six AIM-120.
Endless debates can go on from here relative to the different missiles capabilities and how well they are modeled by Eagle Dynamics but I’m not as interested in that. More importantly, I think this is going to be an interesting moment for DCS. Adding a new, yet familiar, fighter to the mix with some new minor details and one big difference that may shake up the multiplayer environment will probably make some ripples.
I’m a fan of changing things up and adding new features over time. I’m also not experienced with DCS multiplayer except from afar so this affects me far less than some players who have become comfortable with the status quo. I suspect this will shake that up some!