Some thoughts on the DCS: AV-8B

Recently I’ve heard a lot of people lamenting the DCS: AV-8B Harrier. It’s an aircraft that seems to provoke some ire among some fans of the series and its a type that has been at least one piece of a lightning rod for some of the various controversies that have arisen recently. It’s not perfect and it needs some work before it’s ready to be considered complete, but I’m having fun with it and I want to focus a bit on some of the great parts about flying this jet.

An exciting mission on Georgia at War

AV-8B-autumn-valley
The AV-8B flies smoothly down a autumn valley scene on the Caucasus map.

My most recent AV-8B experience was just today on Georgia at War. A long Hornet mission had just ended in disaster as a SA-13 took out my low on fuel Hornet and forced me to bail out. I wanted revenge and the AV-8B was the solution.

Loaded with a pair of Sidewinders, a pair of Sidearms, six MK82s, and the GAU-12 25mm gunpod, I headed to the site of my crashed Hornet. My target was a power plant and the defensive battery around it.

With Sidearms armed, I followed the RWR on the HUD up to the SAM site, aquired the target and rifled a Sidearm. It tracked and killed the SAM battery. I’ve now had my revenge and its time to be useful too.

Wheeling around at low altitude I performed a pop-up maneuver and armed my MK82s with CCIP mode enabled. I set my multiple setting to two so I could pickle a pair of bombs with each release. Tracking three buildings, I put the CCIP piper on the first building, pickled the first two bombs, smoothly tracking the second and third buildings in this pass as well.

AAA fire rose to meet me but the AV-8Bs small size and good roll rate help with defensive tactics.

AV-8B-wrecks-and-ruin.jpg
Not from my recent mission but evidence of the kind of havoc that a AV-8B can leave in its wake.

All three sets of bombs impacted on all three buildings causing fires and ultimately the destruction of the buildings. The mission is definitely going well now! Next, I armed the GAU-12 and made four passes over the target area targeting stationary trucks and AAA whittling them down with each pass and avoiding all but one glancing shot from enemy ground fire.

At this point a UH-1 Huey near me reports that he’s under attack from a bandit. With my GAU ammo expended, I’m down to just two AIM-9s.

As luck would have it, the enemy fighter that I identified as a Su-27 is low and turning tightly to try and re-aquire the Huey. But it’s no good because I’m behind the Su-27 traveling faster and with my AIM-9 locked on. Fox 2 and target splashed.

After a little extra drama on the way back involving a low flying F-5 and some friendly fighters coming charging to the rescue, I landed, parked and thought to myself just how much fun that flight was.

It’s not without its problems

The Harrier in DCS is not without its problems. Several screens still don’t work, the targeting pod seems to have some issues intermittently, and some features I’ve found outright baffling. Sometimes, I don’t know if it’s a bug or a problem with my setup or just a quirk of the real AV-8B Harrier.

Sometimes those problems are truly frustrating. When I let them bother me I tend to get caught up on what is wrong and that can prevent me from enjoying what is right or at least what is entertaining. As much as I want to see this module progress and reach a stage of completion and state of being relatively bug free – I also think it’s important to point out that it can just be fun.

AV-8B-overflight
Flying from the deck of a smaller carrier deck with a jump jet is a totally unique experience.

I flew some missions with the Light Attack Squad recently from the deck of a Tarawa carrier flying support for a Marine MEU in a scripted multiplayer mission. That was a great experience rolling in and out of the target area and dealing with the air defenses while Marine helicopters fly in to take the base.

And then we headed back to land on the Tarawa using the Harrier’s jump jet capabilities. It’s a unique experience that you just don’t get with any of the other jets.

Final thoughts

AV-8B-dubai-skyline
Flying the AV-8B over the flat desert near Dubai is just as fun as anything.

The Harrier is a module that remains unfinished and one that has some bugs and issues that are holding it back. But for all of those bugs, you can still fly this aircraft in DCS and have a largely bug free experience flying a really interesting aircraft and operating in ways that you just can’t with other jets. And if you’re not having fun or extracting some entertainment value out of it, what’s the point?

Just some thoughts on this aircraft module as it exists right now. Here’s hoping the end of 2018 and early 2019 see RAZBAM make some strides forward on what is already a fun module.

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. Mischiew Rithe says:

    I think the M-2000C was in pre-release beginning of 2016, and it’s only about finished now (I think, I haven’t tested it in a while), not long ago we still had one or two partially unplayable training missions because of unfinished features, even though it was very much playable already.

    So about a quite long 2 – 2.5 years to finish after pre-release, and the Harrier is more complex, it will also need some time to be ready! It’s more or less part of the deal, we shouldn’t complain, but I’m just hoping Razbam tries and stays focused despite all their projects (MiG-19B, MiG-23MLA, F-15E, A-29, AV-8B, M-2000C to fix and maintain, Falklands with map and AI models…).

    It’s easy to slip with a product pre-release and no due date or at least an estimation of the final delivery, and it’s probably a little sloppy too. Even for their own financial health.

    On the other hand, they haven’t been stingy on research and improvement for the M-2000C.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      I share the concern that many have that RAZBAM is spreading thin and leaving their first two modules on the vine to wither. It’s a concern and perhaps a fear but one that hasn’t played out (not yet anyways).

      It looks like the M-2000C is going to get some sort of update based on their time with the French Air Force. That will be interesting.

      For the moment, as I was writing in the post, you can still have a ton of fun with the Harrier. I was letting the bugs get me down until I just went out and flew and had a great time.

      Like

  2. Michael Dwyer says:

    I am a glass half full guy. The game is very complex (and evolving all the time) and the developers don’t have all the documentation that McDonald Douglas produced so I am willing to overlook issues. I do hope we get a complete aircraft soon, but I understand they have a limited number of programmers. I also understand that while the mid-19 seems to be the priority, the number of complex systems on that aircraft are pretty limited. They have stated that is will not go into early access but will be a finished product once it is released.

    And lets face it, Light Attack Squadron has more issues with individual and group training, the aircraft is not the limiting factor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Zoomy says:

      I got the impression that the team that is making the MiG-19 is a different team from the one that was working on the Mirage 2000C and the AV-8B. I not sure that the MiG-19’s development is all that responsible for the delays. Does anyone who is not on RAZBAM’s staff really know how tasks are divided up among their programmers and artists. I think that because the marketing side of a company moves onto the next big thing, that we assume this means that the company has stopped work on their previous products.
      I understand that these teams are small and that they may not have enough staff to work on every module constantly. I share the concern that Razbam seems to have more projects going on at one time than any of the other 3rd parties (at least as far as we know). Only Eagle Dynamics/Belsimtek appear to have as large a workload (much larger actually, I think), but, they are a larger team. However, keep in mind that Razbam has been around for quite a while. They were making aircraft for iterations of Microsoft Flight Sim going back many years. It’s not their first rodeo, and I trust that they know better than I what is or isn’t too much for them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ShamrockOneFive says:

        So far as I understand, yes, the MiG-19 project is being done by one group and the other modules are spread around different developers within RAZBAM. They have been around for a while and although I share others concerns about the perception of what they are up to, I think you do make a good point. RAZBAM has been doing this for a long time now.

        Like

    2. ShamrockOneFive says:

      It’s been a blast flying with you the group from time to time and I’ve learned a whole lot about the Harrier in the process. What a great way to learn the jet. I’m still scratching the surface I’m sure with the full capabilities.

      Like

  3. Zoomy says:

    Shamrockonefive’s point is rather accurate I think. I often hear people saying that they won’t fly a certain aircraft until XYZ is fixed. I’ve done the same with Elite Dangerous, setting the game aside for nearly a year. Long enough for me to forget some of the controls. It didn’t help that one of the patches in the interim had wiped out my previous HOTAS mapping. Last weekend ago after hearing of some upcoming changes to exploration and mining in the game, I decided it was time to return to the game, and despite the new features not yet being in the game, I’m having a blast playing it.

    Long delays in development are par for the course with todays games, and this holds true for many genres. But, if we allow ourselves to become hypersensitive to the delays and on the things that don’t work yet or as we’d like, we often miss out on the fun. We can’t see the forest for the trees.

    Another thing I’d add (sorry for hijacking your blog, Sharmrock) is that real fighter pilots have equipment that does’t work, or work as expected too. They deal with it. They find ways to work around it. You don’t always get to fly the aircraft you want, but, the aircraft you have.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Well said Zoomy. Ultimately, we are doing this hobby for the entertainment value and it should just be fun. Elite, DCS, and other titles take a long time to get “done” and they never really are because they are always pushing the limit a bit further. It’s good to bask in the amazing stuff that we have going on now and try not to miss the forest for the trees!

      Like

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