Curiosity turned to excitement earlier today as Eagle Dynamics premiered and live streamed a new video on their YouTube channel. The focus of the video was clearly on their new cloud technology which look beautiful and is working extremely well. That wasn’t all as the video revealed the exterior of Heatblur’s A-6E Intruder AI aircraft and with it news that this aircraft will indeed be developed into a full flyable aircraft. Here’s what we know!
Reaching for the skies
First up, the new video that premiered earlier today is a 6 minute, 40 second DCS World extravaganza featuring most of the aircraft in the series in one form or another cruising through the skies and flying all around the new clouds.
There are quite a wide variety of shapes and textures on display for the cloud system and it’s shown off in multiple lighting conditions. It looks like the feature is really coming along and it’ll be making one of the most dramatic differences to DCS World’s visual presentation since maybe the initial release of DCS World 2.5.
Check out the video!
The video above features several shots of the new AI A-6E Intruder for DCS World. It’s appearance prompted immediate questions on if it would become a flyable. To answer that, let’s first go back in time. When Heatblur revealed the DCS: F-14, they also included a video they called ‘Shoulder to shoulder.’ It was our first look at the A-6E for DCS World and although Heatblur said that they planned it as an AI aircraft to complement the F-14 (which makes some sense) they also said they were building the exterior model to the same level of fidelity as the F-14. Many asked and Heatblur’s answer has generally been that they would like to do it.
Jump to today and we now go from speculation to confirmation and it comes to us from multiple sources. Let’s start with Heatblur with one of their developers, IronMike, making this post on the forums earlier today:
I’ll repeat it, so it comes “from our mouths” here as well, and there is no doubt:
Stay tuned for the A-6E and KA-6 being added to DCS World as AI units in the near future as part of the development cycle of the F-14!
We will be developing this aircraft as a fully flyable module together with our partners at Eagle Dynamics, as part of an ambitious roadmap for a growing and hungry Heatblur team! Stay tuned for more information as we forge ahead through 2021.
However: good things take time. Please do not forget that. It is not just around the corner yet, far from it – that just on the side in all fairness, so you can manage your expectations accordingly.IronMike on the DCS World forums
The key emphasis of course is the “developing this aircraft as a fully flyable module…” which was reconfirmed by Eagle Dynamics with an identical statement on both their Discord server and on Twitter.
Exciting news to say the least. That of course leads to further speculations including which variant of the A-6E might be modeled. DCS World forum user Jawhawk1971 asked,
Would a full fidelity A-6E module be pre or post SWIP? In any case, A-6 would be a most welcome, very iconic companion to the Tomcat!Jayhawk197 on the DCS World forums
And IronMike from the Heatblur team answered,
Too early to discuss such details just yet, SWIP, TRAM, etc… the first step will be to finish the AI now first, then we will see, and of course keep you in the loop, as always. In that sense, please be so kind and have some patience with us. There’s a lot of other things for us to finish first, before we will devote ourselves fully to such questions. Thank you.IronMike on the DCS World forums
The SWIP upgrade, initiated in the 1980’s enabled the use of some precision guided systems including the AGM-65 Maverick, AGM-84E SLAM, AGM-65 Walleye, and enhanced capabilities for the AGM-88 HARM. TRAM came a bit earlier in 1979 where the aircraft gained additional sensors such as a FLIR with boresighted laser spot tracker, a new computer, and an upgraded AN/APQ-156 radar. Some or all of these upgrades might be on the table but clearly it’s still too early to know.
There are also lots of questions out there in the community if the KA-6, the refueling variant of the A-6 might also become a flyable type. These kinds of utility roles have been often pushed to the sidelines of the experience and covered by AI-only but that can always change. At this point, I wouldn’t count on it but I wouldn’t necessarily count it out either.
Meanwhile, the AI model looks stunning in the new trailer appearing the a few scenes including one or two which appear to be set on the new Marianas Islands map.
Growing and hungry
The other interesting piece in all of this is that Heatblur is growing and hungry. There have been rumours, unsubstantiated but persistent nonetheless, that Heatblur might be moving away from DCS World as a platform. Heatblur announced in 2019 that they were becoming part of Meta Aerospace group and since then their updates for DCS World have continued but little was known of their future beyond F-14.
The A-6 appears to be cementing that future but a ‘growing and hungry’ Heatblur statement as made above is a deliberate message that this may not be all that Heatblur is working on. We’ve seen them talk about other aircraft before (the J-35 Draken for example) and of course they still have the USS Forestall to finish for the F-14. Whatever the case, Heatblur’s future with DCS World appears to be solid.
More information on all of this as it develops!