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
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.
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.
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.
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.