The Thunderbolt has come to DCS World and brings with it a storied aircraft type with plenty of history and an expansion of the DCS WWII theatre. This is a first look at the P-47D for DCS World.
Multiple versions planned
The version that is now available in DCS World is the P-47D-30 late. This bubble top variant of the P-47 has a number of distinguishing features including a dorsal spine that was introduced in the D-30 that improved lateral stability after some was lost when the bubble canopy was introduced. It also features the K-14 lead-computing gunsight which lets pilots plug in range and wingspan values which the gunsight then gives an indication of how much lead you need to pull to hit the target.
Later, a P-47D-30 Early is planned which will have a few key differences such as the fixed Mark VIII reflector gunsight as well as the late model P-47D-40 which will feature HVAR rockets.
Also planned at a later date is rockets. Both the M8 Bazooka tube rockets as well as HVAR rockets are apparently planned although we don’t know when they will appear.
Flying the P-47 in DCS World
Flying the P-47 in DCS World is particularly interesting to me for two reasons. First, Eagle Dynamics CEO Nick Grey has flown the P-47 (the Grim Reapers did a lengthy interview with him on the P-47) and so has first hand experience with the aircraft. Second, Eagle Dynamics build their flight modeling using high resolution 3D aerodynamic models and fluid dynamics calculations. Original information including most of the records for Republic Aviation were destroyed post-war so getting the flight model details were challenging. These are the lengths that Eagle Dynamics reported that they were going to make the P-47 fly well with their Professional Flight Model (PFM). With that kind of attention to detail, it’s likely that the P-47 in DCS world is possibly one of the most authentic representations of the fighter ever seen. So how does it actually fly?
Once up to speed the aircraft climbs away rapidly from the runway although if you introduce too much elevator the speed quickly falls off and you can get into trouble quickly. Put bombs on the P-47 and it feels a little more sluggish both taking off and climbing away.
Initial turn in for the P-47 is very good although the actual turn rate and overall ability to sustain a turn is not the P-47’s strong suit and P-47 pilots are best off avoiding prolonged turn fights. Instead, attacking from altitude is the better option or using hit and run techniques. That said, initial turn in is strong and so a Fw190 or Bf109 pilot not expecting the initial turn could be caught off guard and in the gunsight of all eight .50cal machine guns.
The roll rate in the P-47 is relatively slow. Although maximum roll rate is quickly achieved, the roll speed is sluggish in comparison to the Spitfire and Fw190. I feel like I should note that this is the third sim that I’ve flown where P-47 roll rates have been on the slower side. It’s been a considerable debate topic in the past with all kinds of pilot reports, charts and accusations of under modeling but ultimately these rates seem to roughly match the few published charts that I’ve seen so I can only assume its correct.
In a stall the aircraft tends to rock back and forth gently before departing more violently. Here you feel the weight of the aircraft as it tends to roll hard to one side or another. Recovery can be a bit hairy at first until you can the oscillations under control.
Landing the aircraft takes a little doing as it does with most warbirds. The Thunderbolt can float down the runway sometimes which means that a careful approach angle and technique is required for best results. Also like most warbirds, the P-47 is very sensitive to speed, altitude and power changes meaning any adjustment of any of these three (or other variables) and you’re likely to need to re-trim the aircraft. Trim is very sensitive so just a quick tap or turn of the wheel is often more than enough.
Packing a punch
Unsurprisingly, the P-47D-30 can pack a punch both with the primary battery of eight .50cal machine guns as well as the available 100lb, 250lb, 500lb and 1000lb bombs. As mentioned above, there are no rockets currently available on this early access P-47 although that is planned to change as the aircraft is developed further.
Of course the .50cals are impressive on their own. Once DCS World’s damage model updates for WWII aircraft are in, we’ll really see the effects of the individual system damage that a spray of .50cals can cause.
This later variant of the P-47 saw itself flying more and more ground attack operations. Although the 56th Fighter Group flew to the end of the war with their P-47 Thunderbolts in the fighter role, they were the exception to the rule. The bomb loadouts now are quite potent but I am looking forward to the addition of rockets later which will help to up the ante a bit more.
In trend with everything else from Eagle Dynamics recently, the visual artistry on the DCS: P-47 is impressive and at the top of the class.
There’s detail on every surface but it’s a subtle amount of detail so it doesn’t scream out at you either. However, when you take the time to look around it shows an impressive effort to make this look as authentic as possible and I can’t help but be impressed here.
The gauges and dials in the cockpit are particularly good looking neither factory fresh nor horribly abused and they are easy to read in nearly all lighting conditions.
Externally the details are also at the top of the class here and they look impressive from every angle. Extremely well done and if you look at the screenshots in this post, you’ll see for yourself just how good it looks. I have no complaints on the visuals save for my desire to see more official skins included as there is just the one right now.
Just a few missions
The available missions are fairly limited for the P-47D-30 with just a small number actually available to fly. Quick action missions are well done and cover all of the released maps for DCS World which is a nice touch fortunately – so no matter what map you own you can get into and fly this aircraft quickly.
But when it comes to missions to fly in the aircraft there are just three – and only one over The Channel with the other being set in the Caucasus. I would have preferred that they spent a little more time on more missions and focused in on The Channel and Normandy. This is where the P-47 will shine.
Sometimes disappointing damage models
Although in better shape than some early access releases in DCS World, the P-47’s damage model is a bit of a weak spot for the release at this time. It definitely has one but its mostly limited to being de-winged or an overall loss of control and fires. Crashing on landing can damage some parts too so it’s not all bad, however, some of the more subtle effects are not in.
In one ground attack sortie my engine cowling was blown off and the propellers bent but the engine itself continued to operate at peak capacity. There were no ill effects at all. The visual damage and internal detailing was impressive but it had no bearing on me flying the aircraft unfortunately.
We are still waiting for the new DCS WWII damage model system to come in which should correct this and so I’m sure it will be solved with that overhaul but it was a bit surprising how limited it really is right now.
You also can’t seemingly overheat or cause any serious problems with the engine even by running it hard for a long period of time. Maybe I’m doing something wrong but not matter how hard you abuse the engine it seems to run with no ill effects at all. This isn’t the only warbird with that issue and so it makes me wonder if a new system is coming in for that in the future.
In good shape…but
As early access goes, the DCS: P-47 is a pretty good one. For the most part, everything you need to get going and having fun with this aircraft is available right now. In-fact, I had a lot of fun with this aircraft and really enjoyed flying it! Available rocket loadouts would be nice to have but I don’t see that as a requirement so long as we don’t wait too long for them.
The damage and engine modeling are a weak spot here and I am a bit concerned on this point as the Fw190A-8 came out of early access with these features still largely missing. The new damage model for WWII, teased for a while now, will hopefully remedy all of these problems. Until it does, this is a mark against this otherwise excellent module.
The DCS: P-47D is a beautiful rendition of the classic and legendary P-47 Thunderbolt and one that I hope Eagle Dynamics will work on quickly to bring to a completed state complete with a more detailed damage model and some skins to fill out the set. It’s already a good, enjoyable experience, with plenty of personality, and it just needs to go a little further.