One of my goals for the summer was to get back to flying the DCS: A-10C II and really learn it this time. After the last couple of weeks, I’m now well on my way towards completing that goal and taking the aircraft into a multiplayer combat server. Here’s a bit about the learning process so far.
Years in the making
My first flight sim, ever, was Dynamix’s A-10 Tank Killer. I played it on a 386 computer and it had primitive VGA graphics and entire scenes were made up of less polygons than we now normally devote to things like the wingtip of a missile. But it was my first introduction to the world of simulation and it helped me to learn about the different types of weapons and the uses of the A-10 on the battlefield.
Given the limitations of the day, it’s impressive to me how well it holds up 32-years later. All of the basic elements were there and the developers made smart decisions on how to best represent the operation of this jet.
Much more recently, I’ve done a bunch of flying with the A-10 in Lock On: Modern Air Combat, in Flaming Cliffs 3 with the A-10A, and with the DCS: A-10C and then A-10C II. But aside from the simple operations with the A-10A, I never really spent the time to fully learn the systems. I shot the cannon a bunch and I flew the jet around but really getting into it fully was always on the back burner.
Until a few weeks ago.
Armed with videos and guides
My learning process with a DCS aircraft is this. Start by just flying it and get a feel for the cockpit, the aircraft, where some of the buttons and switches are and then just push the limits and see what happens. I try and not be too serious at this stage and I’ll crash it, burst tires, and generally make a ton of mistakes. Its fun because this is a simulation and not the real thing and there are very real learning opportunities and benefits to pushing the aircraft like this.
Next, I start to get serious and I spend quite a bit of time with two sources of information:
Of course, many of you will also fondly remember Bunyap Sim’s various A-10 tutorials and gameplay videos too and while I did watch some of them, these were mostly created in 2015. Six years later and some things have changed and the DCS A-10C II has some notable reconfiguration of HOTAS commands in some specific functions. Still, they are valuable if you’re looking for ways to engage with this aircraft.
Out onto the range
After reading and watching a lot of tutorials, it was time to get the aircraft out onto the range. Here I went with two different options and I have a bit of a story to tell with that.
I love hopping onto the Hoggit Training Server and reacquainting myself with an aircraft or learning an aircraft for the first time. I did that with the A-10C II and there are some notable benefits to training online. One of them being that you basically do a dry run of what flying on a combat oriented server would be like. That includes start-up (which I’m still using the automated process), using SRS, taxiing, takeoff, and flying to the target and back.
My first couple of sorties out on the range there were good. I made mistakes, I learned and I generally was able to operate the aircraft to the extent that I was able to fly it and return to base. I did fire my first Maverick on there and drop unguided bombs and missiles. That was solid progress.
I did, however, run into some problems too. On one of my missions out, I narrowly avoided a huge crater in the middle of the runway. Someone had decided to bomb the runway and deprive players of access to the aircraft there (many of which need the full runway to takeoff) and cause a lot of problems. Not cool.
On another sortie, I spawned in to find two Hornet’s buzzing the field and harassing players. I did not escape unscathed and one of the Hornet’s came so close that he clipped my wingtip. Then he fired his 20mm all around me before finally crashing into me as I tried to avoid the collision. Also not cool.
We don’t have too many of this kind of player in flight simulation compared to other genres but we do have them and they are detestable folks who make things worse for so many people. It’s immensely frustrating. What if I were a new player just trying to get my first few hours on a multiplayer server? What kind of message does that send?
I know I’m not going to reach that kind of personality with this message, but for newer pilots out there, I do want to say that generally my experience online has been very positive and when you do run into them, you have to try and move beyond them and not let it diminish the fun ahead of you.
The rest of my training sorties I did in my own created missions. Setting up a few easy targets to practice procedures including GBU-38 and GBU-12 GPS and laser guided bomb runs, CCIP bomb runs, rocket attacks with conventional and laser guided APKWS, and generally getting the feel for the way the Litening II targeting pod works in the A-10C II.
I do want to make a special note at the end here that the Warthog is very HOTAS driven and while it doesn’t require a useful HOTAS setup, it does benefit from one. I’ve been doing all of my configuration on the VIRPIL MongoosT-50CM3 which I just reviewed and it has been holding up exceptionally well – especially in light of the fact that its not purpose built for the role the way that the Thrustmaster Warthog was. Still, in my “Battle Tested” review of the unit, I did manage to find a way to bind every control I needed to my setup.
I’ve got a bit of learning left but I’m almost ready to take the DCS: A-10C out onto a server and face down some challenging threats. I’m sure those first few sorties are going to be tough and I’m going to have to adjust my tactics as I learn how best to use the A-10. I’m on the road there and it’s been fun so far!