The power of a fourth gen fighter jet is becoming much clearer to me with the latest feature for the DCS: F/A-18C coming later this week. I am speaking of the Hornet’s Datalink features through the Link16 standard. The latest training video from Matt Wagner goes in-depth on just some of the features for Datalink and what it will do for our situational awareness in flight.
This is a gamechanger
I try not to do the hyperbole that often but I think ‘gamechanger’ is warranted in this case as Link16 and the Datalink system for the DCS: F/A-18C give us a lot of new features and possibilities. Being able to get IFF, target information, prioritizing threats, and being able to do that with a mix of sensors on my own aircraft and from other aircraft in theater (particularly from an AWACS) is an impressive feat.
The work on Datalink, the MIDS and SA pages, also starts the efforts to bring in more realistic IFF capabilities to the Hornet which will be expanded over time. Being able to get the IFF and type information of targets either by radio or through radar identification (by scanning the aircraft’s intake and fan structure) and then keeping those tagged takes a lot of guesswork out and provides an impressive advantage.
Jump into the 18-minute overview right now and see for yourself:
Sharing and donating data
What’s really interesting to me is the aircraft that can share data already. AI F-15s (but not the FC3 F-15 apparently), the E-2 and E-3 AWACS, other F/A-18Cs and in the future F-16C as well. Also mentioned, though currently crossed out, is the Link4 which is present on the F-14 in real life and I can only imagine is somewhere on the DCS: F-14 roadmap. The A-10C is also part of the network with Matt Wagner reporting the following:
A-10C can broadcast PPLI over L16 gateway.Matt Wagner on YouTube
The Hornet will, once it gets this update, have an unprecedented level of situational awareness that other aircraft simply don’t have at the moment and that will give it some distinct advantages.
At this point I don’t know how the DCS: F-14 will factor into the networked data but I’m already excited to see DCS: F/A-18C and DCS: F-14B teams working together – sharing data on targets and other information is impressive too.
I’m also very excited to learn that the SAM threat circles will be part of the early implementation so we’ll also have a more impressive idea of where SAM sites are and what range capabilities they have. This all goes towards making SAM avoidance easier and SEAD missions even more interesting.
Datalinks for all?
The Su-27 has its own Datalink capabilities and is one of the earliest aircraft in DCS World to support that kind of ability. But there’s a problem, my understanding is that this feature is not available in multiplayer. At least, it isn’t right now but Eagle Dynamics’ work developing the Link16/DL/SA feature for the Hornet now means that they have the multiplayer feature of this worked out and can now turn around and implement it for the Flanker.
This would help mitigate some of the advantages that the BLUEFOR team have in player-versus-player matches.
Bringing the Datalink capability to the DCS World toolkit also has future implications for modules such as the F-16C but also the JF-17 Thunder which, under development by Deka Ironworks, may have a simplified Datalink according to the developers (the real one being very classified).
Adding Datalink introduces a new kind of “arms race” in the DCS World competitive multiplayer community and it will be interesting to see how this plays out over the coming months and years.