The last patch for IL-2: Great Battles brought us the C-47A Skytrain. This military focused derivative of the famous DC-3 airliner saw extensive use in WWII with its most iconic role being that of the transport that delivered Allied airborne troops in the hours before the storming of the beaches during Operation Overlord. Now that this iconic aircraft is in IL-2, what can we make of it and, for the thousand dollar question, will it ever become flyable?
First, of all of the iconic aircraft of WWII to appear in IL-2: Great Battles, there is something uniquely romantic about the DC-3 and its long legacy of service that stretches into 2020. Although there are many other aircraft out there performing the role these days, a few DC-3’s still flew doing surveys and chartered flights in remote areas where the aircraft’s robust nature still proves to be a major asset.
During WWII, that robust nature was on full display flying routes all across the planet in the service of more than a dozen nations on both sides of the conflict – so ubiquitous was the DC-3 and its various military variants (including C-47, Li-2, and L2D). Production numbers across all variants bring the total number of aircraft up to approximately 16,000
In western narratives, the C-47’s most iconic appearance is easily it’s role in the skies above Normandy dropping paratroopers that went in ahead of the invasion force. This is why this aircraft’s appearance now, during the development of IL-2: Battle of Normandy, makes so much sense. Fortunately, it wasn’t just Normandy that the aircraft was used in and when it comes to bang for the buck in terms of aircraft being represented in simulation, the C-47 can go far with its roles on both eastern and western fronts throughout the war making this aircraft a great addition to the sim.
The C-47 is a transport aircraft and while some variants, like the Li-2, were armed and even used as light bombers in a pinch, the primary role here is the carriage of troops and supplies. Here the C-47 has a few different options with internal cargo storage, and an external load option with parachute supply canisters. Not yet implemented is the paratrooper drop which will come in a future patch.
Also coming later is the C-47’s integration into Career mode with the transport aircraft setting out on missions of its own delivering and dropping supplies much as the Ju52 can already do. 1CGS has ensured that the C-47 is just as capable and well modeled as the German transport aircraft too with its own set of skins for different scenarios including some unique USAAF skins for some D-Day veterans. A nice touch, especially for an aircraft that isn’t a flyable… but will it be?
There’s been much said over the years since 1CGS released the Ju52 transport into the sim as a Collector Plane. Transport aircraft are not as popular as fighters, attack planes and bombers judging by the numbers that we see in online scenarios. That said, there is a small but vocal group that have been calling for an equivalent Allied aircraft to the Ju52. Most posts about the C-47’s development have been filled with comments from community members asking if it will be flyable in the future.
There are some cases to be made for civilian transports in IL-2. First, the single player possibilities in both Scripted Campaigns and in Career mode are definitely already there. The Ju52 helped to pave the way for that with its own unique mission set. Here I suspect a great many transport pilots stay as multiplayer does not always open the door to transport missions.
Second, despite there not being options on every server, two do stand out as offering the transport role. TAW and Finnish Virtual Pilots – Dynamic War server both have transport duties available and make them essential roles in supplying forward bases with other aircraft for players to fly. While both servers use other aircraft to stand in for the transport role, nothing is more satisfying than using a real transport aircraft to do the job. That together with the unique visuals and nature of the Ju52 (and the C-47) do make for an engaging, if non combat, experience.
While I don’t think 1CGS needs to fill IL-2: Great Battles with all kinds of utility and transport aircraft, I do think that there’s a role and purpose for a couple of them and transport aircraft have already started to establish a nice little niche in the series. I get the impression that the Ju52 may not have sold as well as it should have, however, with a transport aircraft on both sides, the two together could become more valuable on the whole and encourage more multiplayer scenario builders to find symmetrical roles on both sides.
With 1CGS putting as much effort behind the C-47 as they already have, the only thing remaining to do is a cockpit. Although not a small task, given the number of remaining types out there and the likely plentiful supporting resources, it seems probable and even likely that we will see this become flyable at some point in the future as most of the hard work is done (i.e. the exterior 3D model, texture work, flight model, damage model, animations, etc.) and selling it at the same price point as the Ju52 would surely help recoup the costs over time. As much as I’d also want to put the B-25D, the only other AI only type, ahead of it in the list, its indisputable that the bomber would be a more complex proposition as well. Frankly, I’m still hopeful for both in time!