I’ve been putting off writing my first impressions piece on the DCS: MiG-19 for a while but I don’t want to wait too much longer. It’s been just over a week since the launch of the DCS: MiG-19 into DCS World and there are some big questions that I’d like to answer in this first impression turned early review: Is the MiG-19 everything that it was promised to be? Where does it fit in DCS World? Should you buy it? As always there’s nuance required to answer those kinds of questions. Let’s get to it!
Some background history
The MiG-19 (NATO codename “Farmer”) was first introduced in 1955 and saw frontline service in the Soviet Air Force before ultimately being supplanted by the MiG-21. That wasn’t the end for the MiG-19 as it also saw extensive service with the Chinese air force under a license built version called the J-6 and from there it saw plenty of action in the skies over Vietnam.
The last Chinese air force examples were retired in the 1980s and was also used by the North Korean Air Force as late as 2014 making the MiG-19s legacy quite a long one. The story doesn’t end there either. The Chinese also developed the J-6 (MiG-19) into the Q-5 – a close support aircraft with retaining the MiG-19s supersonic capability. These aircraft were only just retired in 2017.
Getting back on to topic, the version of the MiG-19 we have is the MiG-19P – a day/night interceptor equipped with a radar for range and target acquisition. It also has first generation air-to-air missiles in the form of the K-13 (AA-2 “Atoll” in NATO reporting nomenclature) which are rear aspect only missiles.
Visuals inside and out
Watching the development of the MiG-19 over the last year has made me appreciate the amount of work that goes into a project like this. The visuals of the external model in particular came together only in the last few months and the best word I can use when looking at this from the external is: Wow.
The default skin on the MiG-19 is a beautiful metal finish. In some cases it literally glows and makes quite the impression. From a details perspective there are plenty of little details to appreciate and I for one am impressed at how good it is.
Inside the story is much more mixed. Before launch the team at RAZBAM pulled out the stops to improve the visuals of the MiG-19’s cockpit by having another pass at the cockpit textures. The overall effect is a very good one but one that is marred by a few issues.
The biggest issue I see is that the cockpit is just too dark. Two other RAZBAM modules that I own, the M-2000C and AV-8B also suffer from this issue, and that issue has carried through here. I don’t know what it is but there are just some areas of the cockpit that are insufficiently lit to the point where the flashlight doesn’t help you find the button you need without really looking closely. RAZBAM is aware of the issue and an updated lighting setup is due in the next patch.
Some critique is out there too about how accurate the cockpit lighting is at night. Two UV lights are meant to illuminate the dials but the effect is fairly subdued. It’s workable in this case and that’s more of an artistic decision.
Overall, the visuals for the MiG-19 range from very good to absolutely superb when it comes to the exterior model.
Let’s go flying… and fighting
There’s a big issue with the MiG-19 right now when it comes to flying it – the flight model. It isn’t really done yet in my opinion. Soon after release, RAZBAM’s flight modeler took to the DCS World forums to acknowledge some of the issues that they are working on in a thread that you can read here. In short there are issues with the acceleration values, climb rates, and there is practically no way to truly stall the aircraft or cause a departure nor you can you spin the MiG-19 right now. The real aircraft supposedly had a sometimes vicious stall and that is not represented in DCS. Not right now anyways.
When not pushing the MiG-19 to the edge of the envelop, however, I find there is a lot to like here. With fuel tanks and R-13 missiles on the pylons the jet feels weighty enough and going for a cruise in it is a pretty good time. Canyon carving in the Caucasus can be a lot of fun in this jet too. It’s very unpleasant to take into a tight turn right now as it rocks back and forth but never quite stalls. The turn rate is apparently going to be looked at too.
Taxiing, take-off, and landing are actually quite a bit of fun in this jet. It’s not the most difficult to master (that probably still belongs to the MiG-21) but it does take some good coordination in all aspects. The differential brakes, which are tied into the rudder, take a bit of getting used to but not that much. The engine is a bit odd though as 9,000 rpm seems to produce almost no thrust while a jump to 11,000 rpm sends you rocketing across the taxiway. I suspect this has something to do with the aforementioned flight modelling (and connected engine modeling).
Learning the air-to-air modes on the jet is fairly straight forward. I was able to learn the guns and air-to-air missiles along with the various radar modes in only a short period of time. Everything seems to work except for my tactical skills which are lacking in a jet like this – lots of learning still to be had here.
The NR-30 cannons hit incredibly hard to the point where only one or two shells needs to land on target to achieve a kill. Fire duration is limited to just a few seconds so every shot does need to count.
Although Soviet doctrine for this jet is to fire two R-13 missiles at a single target, in DCS World these missiles are just good enough from a rear aspect to fire one and then wait to see if you’ve got a kill or not before following up with the second shot. These are no AIM-9X so you need to really carefully plan your shot before taking it – twisting dogfights is not ideal for R-13 use so switch to guns in those situations. I’m not sure if this is a bug or not but the seeker will give you a lock tone even from the front aspect, however, the missile will not track if fired from this place.
I have no real ground attack experience in this jet yet so no real comments there. Ground attack in the MiG-19 is very similar to a WWII aircraft and aiming is a very manual process. The limited bomb and rocket loadout also hinder any serious strike potential.
At this point I’m still learning the radio, the radio beacons for navigation, and a few of the other systems. A few out there in the community have expressed concern over the ARK-5 radio navigation not working, a recent video with the Reapers seemed to have some issues with the radio itself (and SRS), and several people have noticed some cockpit dials going around and instead of hitting a detente go back and jump to the start again – very clearly not how they are supposed to work.
I want to talk about sounds
Externally, the MiG-19 sounds like I expected. A typical turbojet whistle and whine as the jet flashes past and not too much else. I haven’t noticed any other sound effects externally that are worth mentioning although I don’t know if there was ever anything distinctive to model for this jet. I compare that to Eagle Dynamics F/A-18C which has whistling noises at certain flight regimes and this feels a little more… generic. That may just be what the MiG-19 is like and it certainly has enough oompf to be convincing.
Inside the cockpit there’s the familiar start-up/shut-down sounds, gear up and down, sounds for flaps and these are all pretty good. Once up in the air things are surprisingly serene and maybe even a little too serene. Cranking the MiG-19 into a tight turn is communicated well visually but not as well aurally and its only right at the edge that we hear that rush of wind from the side of the canopy. There are no vibration sounds from within the cockpit either. Button switches are typically quiet, or sometimes silent and it makes me wish a little more attention was paid to the soundscape of the cockpit.
I know there’s some debate over how much you should hear with all of the noise drowning things out but I don’t mind some concessions from reality. If you were a real jet pilot you’d feel (rather than hear) a lot of those “sounds” but since most of us don’t have that experience and rely on our PC’s speakers and headphones… a bit more work here would go a long way towards communicating this jet’s presence on screen.
The DCS: MiG-19 comes with a good manual and some really well done training missions. These training missions are done by DCS World campaign builder Baltic Dragon and he did a fantastic job with it. Some folks didn’t like the fake Russian accent on the first training mission so he adapted and toned down the accent with his voice actor for the rest of the tutorials. They have some fun, if slightly cliche, colour to them (i.e. the “superior Soviet radar” system comment I thought was fun).
There are a bunch of instant action missions for the Caucasus map you can fly but that’s about it right now for missions. Baltic Dragon is going to build a campaign for this and there are two missions being previewed by Spudknocker but there isn’t much else here yet for single player fans. Baltic Dragon reports he’s currently working on mission 3 of the campaign so we’ll see when that arrives.
Where does the MiG-19 fit?
A big problem, and one that can’t really be blamed on anyone in particular, is that this module has is the era in which the MiG-19 exists in. It’s a 1950s and 1960s era aircraft primarily and its biggest battles were fought in the skies over Vietnam. But DCS World currently doesn’t have a Vietnam map or many aircraft that fit that era – not yet anyways.
For now the MiG-19 will enjoy plenty of potential in the couple of Cold War servers that otherwise feature the MiG-21 and F-5 contesting for control of the skies. The MiG-19 adds much needed flavour to that experience and players with that interest should have a lot of fun. Indeed, it’s one of the things that I want to do as soon as possible. In the meantime we’re already seeing players online and doing well in the MiG-19 as you can see in this video.
If Eagle Dynamics and other third party developers make a concerted effort to do the 1960s Vietnam conflict as a key theme over the next few years then I think the DCS: MiG-19 will come into its own as an essential piece to that puzzle. We need the F-4, F-105, F-8 Crusader (just announced by Leatherneck Studios), and a Vietnam map to start to realize that theme completely. Unfortunately, someone has to go first.
A lot to like but not quite everything
There’s a lot to like about the DCS: MiG-19. It’s beautifully detailed, the training missions are very helpful, the manual is well done, and its a fun aircraft to fly. I can’t underplay how nice it is to have variety and after flying a lot of NATO/Western aircraft it’s nice to see the series expand its Russian aircraft options (admittedly a currently intractable problem when it comes to more modern jets).
Some of the modules little issues don’t dissuade me from recommending this module, however, the relatively unfinished state of the aircraft’s flight modeling is extremely difficult to overlook. I appreciate that RAZBAM’s flight modeler has let us know very transparently what is right and what isn’t but it does bug me a little that the transparency came after launch.
Lacking missions or a campaign is also a bit tough for single player only pilots to swallow right now. This will change in time but for now its a weak spot.
Months ago RAZBAM’s communication channels suggested to us that the DCS: MiG-19 was intended to be content complete on release. I applauded the move at the time as a counter to the hit that RAZBAM’s reputation had taken with the unfinished state of the DCS: AV-8B Harrier module. Instead, the MiG-19 just feels a little rushed to be a fully finished module. Eagle Dynamics did put the ‘Early Access’ title on the DCS: MiG-19 and that feels justified at this point.
Ultimately this becomes an issue of expectations. They were set high with the promise of a finished module but they were perhaps a little too high. If we consider this an early access aircraft with a cool history, beautifully detailed art design, and plenty of promise then the DCS: MiG-19 both literally and figuratively shines with potential.
I think, and hope, that the MiG-19 will begin to reach towards its potential given a little more development time. I’ll be very happy to recommend this jet to fans of MiG fighters or for those looking for something different but only once this jet has received a finished flight model, some other pesky bugs eliminated, and it gets either a good selection of single missions or a campaign to play.
The DCS: MiG-19 has fantastic potential to be a hit as a fun to fly Soviet-era interceptor within DCS World. It just hasn’t reached it yet and I was hoping to report that it had. You can bet that I will be reviewing the MiG-19 in the future to check in on its progress.