Review of Flying Circus Vol 2’s Airco DH.4

The Airco DH.4 is a larger, single engine reconnaissance and bomber aircraft and is one of three new aircraft released in the 4.603 update for IL-2 Sturmovik: Great Battles. It is part of the Flying Circus Vol 2 aircraft set and it comes with some interesting performance attributes that I wouldn’t have automatically assumed that it had. Although seemingly run of the mill, the Airco DH.4 has proved to be anything but as I’ve learned . Here’s my review of this aircraft!

A bit of history

The Airco DH.4 has an interesting history. Intended as a bomber and reconnaissance aircraft, the type planned to make use of the 160hp Beardmore Halford Pullinger (BHP) engine, however, problems in that engine’s design resulted in a search for a new powerplant. The DH.4 was later powered by the impressive 375hp Rolls-Royce Eagle engine and 400hp Liberty engine in US service.

Well regarded by crews, the DH.4 went into service early in 1917 and would see service until the middle of 1918. It was impressively fast for its size and that afforded it a measure of protection from interception by enemy aircraft.

Used by several allied nations including Great Britain and the United States, the DH.4 went on to see service in dozens of squadrons. After the war, DH.4’s were retained in service for a variety of purposes from mail delivery to VIP transport. A specially converted DH.4 was used by Prime Minister David Lloyd George in what was probably the first aircraft to be extensively be used by a world leader.

Flying the Airco DH.4

The cockpit in the DH.4 is simple and readable. I really like it!

I knew I was going to like the DH.4 even before I had a chance to fly it. I’ve enjoyed the strike and bombing missions that I’ve been on with the Bristol F2B and the Airco DH.4 is right in that same space.

The DH.4 handles like the big aircraft that it is. With a 43 ft (or 13m) wingspan, the DH.4 rolls slowly and ponderously. That makes it less than suited for going toe-to-toe with enemy fighters the way that the Bristol F.2B does. There is, however, a bit of a trick with this aircraft where using the rudder can help flick roll the aircraft quickly to either side. That seems to alleviate some of the roll rate issues that you may otherwise deal with.

It’s turn time is not quite as good as most fighters either, although it does still turn impressively fast given its size.

The DH.4 flies more like the bomber that I expected it to be. Climbing to altitude and dropping bombs from there seems like the best use of this aircraft. Sometimes circumstances force you lower here it performed well too. At least until enemy fighters showed up.

The view from the bombsight.

Surprisingly, the DH.4 is not a slow aircraft. With a top speed of 200 kph at sea level and 166 kph at 3000 meters, this is an aircraft that outpaces the Sopwith Camel and Albatross D.Va. This gives it a measure of protection from interception or prolonged battles with enemy scouts.

There’s really no bad habits that this aircraft seems to have aside from not being an overly responsive performer. Don’t ask too much from it and it will perform its role brilliantly.

Weapons and modifications

Bombs away! Level bombing is one of the DH.4’s strengths along with its speed.

The DH.4 has a good variety of modifications. The standard bombload includes 12 x 20lb bombs, 8 x 20lb and 2x 112lb bombs, and a few other configurations including the ability to carry two 230lb bombs. That gives it the potential for greater firepower than all other types available in Flying Circus so far.

The single forward firing Vickers machine gun with 500 rounds can be joined by another Vickers and/or by a pair of overwing Lewis guns for an impressive forward firepower of four machine guns.

The turret starts off with a single Lewis but can be modified with a pair of Lewis Machine guns.

An Aldis collimator sight is available.

The type does have an available modification which adds a camera to the aircraft, however, at the moment that’s more for scripting purposes in a mission than as a function that you yourself can perform (how cool would that be if you could take your own photos).

The type’s bombsight is available here and shows both visually on the side of the aircraft as well as through a graphic interface. It’s the same interface that you may be familiar with from the F.2B. Less sophisticated than the WWII sight but still capable of dropping a bomb on target from altitude.

Into combat

Flying together in a team and using mutual supporting fire makes the DH.4 a tough nut to crack.

The DH.4 does well by sticking to its mission and avoiding direct confrontation from enemy fighters wherever possible. It can do this thanks to it’s surprisingly impressive top speed mentioned earlier. That lets it keep some distance from attacking aircraft if they are spotted in time. When fighters do get into range, the turret is well positioned to defend the aircraft and twin Lewis guns can cause some serious damage.

Most of the time I attempted to use as the DH.4 as either a level bomber or attacker and I managed to do this with some success. Although the DH.4 is bigger and less agile than the F.2B, it’s still fast enough and well armed enough to get into a fight and potentially come out the victor. Even in situations where I was heavily outnumbered, I managed to sometimes take down one or two attacking fighters without any fighter support of my own.

The DH.4 does best when flying in a team environment. In a couple of missions, I was able to combine firepower with fellow aircraft and keep up the pressure on attacking fighter and with an escort, the DH.4 improves it’s chances significantly.

When hit, the DH.4 seems to be able to take quite a bit of punishment before going down. Still, if the wings take too much in the way of damage, they may decide to separate from the aircraft in dramatic fashion.

Trading blows with a Fokker D.VII on the Jasta5 Flugpark server. I’ve lost part of my stabilizer but I managed to fight on for several more minutes.

Visual details

Ugra Media continue to do good work bringing old Rise of Flight aircraft up to the latest standards. The cockpit is detailed and fits the part and really benefits from 4K texture use. Infact, the whole aircraft benefits from 4K texture use. The available liveries include a couple of good generic defaults that work well with the new tactical codes as well as some more vibrant examples.

The DH.4 continues the trend of using the dynamic vehicle damage system where individual bullet holes correspond to where the aircraft was hit. Heavier damage show more dramatic slashes, rips and tears in the fabric and of course individual components warp and then come flying off in typical IL-2 Great Battles fashion.

One of my favorite little details on display here is the fold out bombsight which the observer/gunner position uses to aim the bombs.

Small details help make the model including the visual representation of the Airco’s bombsight.

Final thoughts

I knew I was going to like this aircraft but I didn’t know how much I was going to like it and it turns out that it was quite a bit. The DH.4 is very capable as a fast observer or bomber aircraft that does best when it sticks to its job and tries to avoid getting into close in fights with fighters. When it does, however, it has proven to me to be a deadly foe and one that attacking fighters should be wary of especially when flown in a group.

The Airco DH.4 is up to the usual standards from 1CGS and Ugra Media and I really have very little negative to say about this aircraft. If you like bomber raids and attack missions, the DH.4 might just be your kind of aircraft and I have to say that it’s great to see more varied types appearing in Flying Circus above and beyond the usual assortment of popular scouts.

Screenshots

11 Comments Add yours

  1. harryvoyager says:

    That is such a gorgeous paint job.

    I need to get on top of my Bristol campaign, so I can get it done then run a DH.4 one.

    Should give Patric Wilson time to get it into the rotation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Blue 5 says:

    Only downside was the fuel-tank placement, otherwise is was probably the best all-found light bomber of the war. Shame the -9 has such a troubled life as it should have been the -4 with improvements.

    @ Shamrock, you have a double sentence about halfway through about it being a big aircraft.

    Like

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      I’d read a bit about the fuel tank but I wasn’t sure how different it was from other aircraft in the class.

      Well spotted on the double sentence. Not sure what happened there… but it is fixed!

      Like

    2. harryvoyager says:

      That was largely due to the engine. When they re-engined it with the Liberty L-12, it turned into an excellent aircraft.

      Britain has some big issues with its engine development. Was just reading a summary of the ABC Dragonfly. That was not a good engine, yet they’d ordered it in vast quantities before it was even off the test bench.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Blue 5 says:

        Yes, the Puma was something of a cluster and the Dragonfly was an embarrassment. Which is odd because early war UK engines were a bit pants, then they made series of pretty good ones including licensed / developed versions of overseas designs then they managed so really poor decision again.

        Like

      2. ShamrockOneFive says:

        It is a bit incredible to me that they thought the 160hp engine would be suitable and then replaced that with something twice as powerful to make for a useful combat aircraft.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. harryvoyager says:

        Well, it was supposed to be a 300 hp+ engine. It’s just by the time they realized it wasn’t, they’d already shifted so much production towards it, it was BHP/Pumas or nothing.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Diggun says:

    Good job we don’t do anything like that these d… Wait…

    Like

    1. Blue 5 says:

      Ooooh, LM buuuuuuuuuuuuuuurn!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. ShamrockOneFive says:

      The more you read about history the more your realize that it repeats itself… endlessly.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Blue 5 says:

        Stupid is as stupid does…

        Easy in retrospect, but there is an issue of risk vs. reward and given prototype to in-service delay some of it does depend on assumptions and estimates. It gets bogged down with agendas and politics, but in many cases failed aviation projects were based on a strong degree of good faith.

        Blindness in WW1 designs are pretty poor and not always down to bad luck. And not LM as they are entirely culpable for their own sh1t-show

        Liked by 1 person

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