DCS World is a free to play product which means that you can download the sim and enjoy two aircraft right out of the box for free without spending any money. Both TF-51D and Su-25 are good experiences but they don’t really offer the fast jet experience. So, what does an aspiring virtual fighter pilot do if they want to get into something a bit faster? One of your options is the DCS: F-15C Eagle and this is my mini-review of this module for DCS World.
The Eagle is not a full fidelity module for DCS World
The first thing we should get out of the way is that not all aircraft in DCS World are modeled at the same level. Some are considered DCS World full fidelity aircraft and others are, popularly referred to by the community as “FC3 level” aircraft. So, what does that mean?
A DCS World full fidelity module has full system modeling of every major and most minor systems in the cockpit. Controlling the aircraft uses a combination of key presses and mouse button clicks on the inside of the cockpit. Eagle Dynamics started pioneering this with their sim almost a decade ago and there are now a huge list of DCS World high fidelity aircraft including diverse types as the F/A-18C Hornet, F-16C Viper, A-10C Warthog, P-51D Mustang, Spitfire Mark IX, L-39, MiG-15, and the list goes on.
FC3 level aircraft refers to Flaming Cliffs 3, a follow-up to earlier Flaming Cliffs releases and Lock On: Modern Air Combat that came before them. This is a legacy series that is still very well integrated into the modern DCS World of 2020 and that means that the modeling on these types is a little different. There are no clickable cockpits and most systems are interacted with in a simplified and abstract manner – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Some may want a high fidelity module but for others just getting started, the F-15C represents a simpler learning curve that can get you flying a high performance fighter jet without a lot of fuss.
Learning the controls
Compared to a full fidelity module, starting up the F-15C is a simple process. A couple of hot keys will start the electronics, left engine and right engine. That’s it. Maybe you want to turn on some lights too but aside from that there is no need to mess with the auxiliary power unit, inertial navigation system, arm the ejection seat or follow complex procedures to start the jet up and get it going. Those are for DCS World’s full fidelity modules which you can skip with an autostart… but I digress.
DCS World is still a flight simulator so you still need to make sure that you’re controls are set for the engine throttles, nose wheel steering, lights, radar, and more. All of these are key accessed by key presses.
Some suggest that clickable cockpits are ultimately easier to work with and to some degree I agree that is the case. However, if you’re just starting out, the complexity of procedures can be overwhelming and so the F-15C’s simplicity in DCS World can be great as a learning tool. If you just want to press a couple of buttons and starting flying a very high performance jet fighter, the FC3 level of modeling for the F-15C is just fine. It may even be ideal.
But is it competitive?
The F-15C may be simplified so is it able to compete with more sophisticated jets? Actually, yes. The F-15C itself as a jet is an impressive performer with superb performance with high rates of speed, agility, and a very powerful radar that gives it the ability to spot targets earlier in the fight than some other jets.
In competitive multiplayer scenarios, the F-15C is still the preferred platform for many virtual pilots who may otherwise fly higher fidelity jets. That should speak to the jets overall ability in a high end missile fight or in a shorter range gun fight. The F-15C can sling AIM-7, AIM-9, and AIM-120 missiles offering a semi-active radar, IR, and active radar missile set. If your new to those terms, the F-15C will help teach you the difference.
The F-15C both in sim and in real life is not as flexible as other jets. That high degree of performance comes from a design optimized for the air-to-air combat role. As has been written and said many times, the F-15 emphasizes its air superiority mission leaving “not a pound for air-to-ground.” The Eagle’s ability to attack ground targets is essentially non-existent. It keeps its role focused and that does help reduce the learning curve too.
The F-15C in DCS World does lack a few other features. It has no ability to display Link16 datalink information so the F-15C can’t build up a picture of the combat space the way that other datalink enabled jets can. Interestingly, the F-15C can feed data into the datalink but not receive it as of March of 2020.
IFF or identification friend-or-foe is simple in the F-15. It knows immediately if the target aircraft is hostile or friendly. It’s less immersive this way but it reduces the chances of a friendly fire incident and more than one person has told me that this gives them confidence to join a multiplayer server that they may otherwise struggle to coexist in.
There is also no sophisticated navigation system so pre-arranged waypoints are required to use some of the jet’s navigation systems. It’s fine in single player but slightly more awkward in multiplayer if you want to closely coordinate with other jets.
For most pilots starting out, these disadvantages are really just layers of complexity and so the F-15C staying simple is not necessarily a bad thing. Eventually, you may outgrow the F-15’s simpler features although my coming back to it recently has been an enjoyable experience.
How does it fly?
In a word… brilliant. It has some control augmentation making it more difficult to get out of control than some of the more fully analog jets while not being a full fly-by-wire system that limits control of the aircraft as with others. That makes it accessible as a jet for new pilots and experienced ones alike with sharp yet manageable handling..
As I wrote before, the F-15C is fast, agile, it turns well, it rolls quickly, and it can fight with the best of the best fighters in DCS World and come out on top. It’s one of the top dogs of aerial combat both in the real world and in the sim. In many ways the simplified systems provide a benefit but they also offer a few drawbacks too as I explained earlier but ultimately the role of air superiority fighter is completely accessible with this jet.
Furthermore, while the F-15C may not have the high fidelity systems modeling, Eagle Dynamics rebuilt the F-15’s flight model a few years ago bringing it to their PFM-level (or Professional Flight Model) of flight modeling. This makes the F-15C every bit as high fidelity in its flight dynamics as its other DCS World stablemates and it’s an impressive and realistic feeling when you get this jet up into the sky.
Does it hold up graphically?
It’s one of the oldest aircraft in the series and so you may ask how well it holds up. Fortunately, Eagle Dynamics have upgraded it over the years and its a very decent looking module.
While not at the cutting edge of what’s possible, it still holds up well in the sim and as the screenshots hopefully show you, it fits in well with the other high detail aircraft. The cockpit may not be clickable but it shows care and attention was put into making it look good and from what I can see, the VR experience here is also still very good.
A little less graphical fidelity also helps keep frame rates high and so the F-15 is also very good that way. Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with the detailing here and it doesn’t look overly dated.
What is good about the F-15C in DCS World is that it does all of the advanced features but it does it in a simplified way and it makes it a good stepping stone to more advanced aircraft. It has the capability both in systems and weapons to be able to contribute to a high end fight without feeling hamstrung by the simplicity.
The DCS: F-15C is great way to get introduced to the world of fast fighter jets and it does it with an aircraft that is both iconic and capable. If you’ve got the free version of DCS World and want to take a first step into a faster quicker fighter but aren’t yet ready to go for the full fidelity experience, the F-15C is a great way to get going.
Finally, the F-15C is an affordable option with its regular price of $14.99 USD being fairly reasonable for the jet. Even better, when its on sale like on a day such as today, the jet comes in at $7.49 USD making it cheaper than buying lunch in many places. It can also be purchased as part of a $49.99 package called Flaming Cliffs 3 which also includes the A-10A, Su-27, Su-33, J-11A, and MiG-29A/S/G.