A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the DCS: Su-25T which is one of the two aircraft that are free to play in DCS World. Today I’m writing about the other free to play aircraft: the TF-51D Mustang. There’s a lot to like about this free module within the DCS World aircraft collection and it makes me want more.
Airshow ready Mustang
The TF-51D is a trainer aircraft with no operable guns and no gunsight so this is very much a non combat aircraft. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with this aircraft. The TF-51D is a kind of ‘airshow’ aircraft and nothing reinforced that more for me than flying a tour of Las Vegas in the Mustang performing various aerobatics and getting a sense of the aircraft.
It fits into DCS World’s modern aesthetic (at least for the Vegas map) really well in this way.
Full click-pit experience
What the DCS: Su-25T lacks is a more full fidelity experience with a clickable cockpit but that isn’t an issue here. This is a full Mustang experience with all of the cockpit dials, buttons, switches and various related controls all interactive via mouse click (or key bind of course).
Aside from a few weapons switches, this is the full experience of the P-51D module (available for $49.99 on the DCS E-Shop) and that makes it a good preview of what a DCS WWII warbird is all about.
Is it difficult to fly?
Some sim pilots, especially new ones, may have some difficulties managing the Mustang. I’m more experienced and at home in warbirds for the most part so when I went to try the DCS World experience on the TF-51D I was surprised that there were no surprises. The Mustang handles the way I expected it to and its not that difficult if you’re prepared for it.
I was able to perform takeoff, turns, rolls, loops, and all manners of flying without much difficulty. I did dial in some axis curves to get the feel right but once I was there I was able to do my usual warbird routine.
The Mustang is a hands on aircraft compared to many of the DCS World jets. That means that rudder and trim are essential parts of the flying experience. So too is watching things like engine temperature and making sure you don’t overdo the RPMs. The manifold pressure needs to be in the right place too or you’ll start to burn out the engine.
Landing and takeoff requires a good feel for the aircraft and a good sense of when you flare and get the aircraft to stall just above the ground so that your wheels touch just as this is happening. A smooth landing is quite possible but it does take a bit of work.
Though the Mustang in DCS is a relatively easy to fly aircraft in nearly every way but it does have a few vices. Exceed the angle of attack too much though and the stall can come on quite suddenly. I also found the brakes to be insufferably touchy (I use a single button keybind for brakes – admittedly not the best solution).
Finally, I can’t leave this section without mentioning that DCS has implemented a kind of “fly by wire lite” in the difficulty settings for this aircraft. Auto rudder control helps you get the aircraft flying without much rudder work – I didn’t try it with that feature on but I know from comments around the community that it can help when you’re getting started.
So what is this aircraft meant to do?
Without a combat role in a combat sim means that the TF-51D doesn’t have a lot to do – except for one thing: it can be used to teach you to fly. The Mustang is a fairly simple and capable WWII aircraft that teaches you the basics of flight for DCS World. If you can master this aircraft then you can probably fly most things that DCS World can throw at you both from WWII and from the more modern era.
The TF-51D Mustang is a great way to get started with the series and get a sense of what a clickable cockpit is like while starting out. This is perfect as a starter aircraft (and part of DCS World’s “free to play” experience).
For me it also did one other thing: left me wanting more. Might a combat capable Mustang or Spitfire show up in my DCS hangar before too long? Yeah that’s a good possibility! I just hope that they can push forward with their DCS: WWII themed content over the next few years.