DCS World’s new Cold War niche

Sometimes a good thing comes together as part of a plan and sometimes they seem to just happen by accident. Calling the recent focus by third party developers and by the DCS flight sim community at large an accident may sound like a disparagement of what’s going on but I’d like to think the opposite. With that as the background, now may be a good time to explore just what is going on and what’s coming up next. Let’s go!

High fidelity, but more accessible?

There’s an argument to be made that earlier aircraft are simpler to manage. Take a look at any modern high fidelity jet that DCS World models and you need to know quite a bit about it to get any use out of it. The skill is in the remembering what the steps are to make the targeting pod talk to the guided bomb and then program that bomb to fly the exact profile that you want it to so that you can achieve the destruction of the target.

Do the right steps in the right sequence and destruction of your target is nearly guaranteed. In the act of combat flight simulation, as in the real world that its based on, guaranteeing the destruction of your target is definitely a good thing. It changes the skill set from muscle memory to a more procedural, almost academic, form of flying and combat.

This experience can be quite a bit of fun in its own right and a modern combat environment is highly skill based and challenging. But it also means that you have a kind of binary experience where you either know all the steps and have a strong chance of achieving your goal or you forget one critical step and nothing happens. It can be frustrating especially if you come back weeks, months or even years later to a module.

Enter the Cold War era aircraft. Existing in a middle ground somewhere between the highly digital aircraft like the F-16 and F/A-18 on the one side and the stick and rudder experience of the WWII warbird on the other, types like the F-4 Phantom, MiG-21, BAe Lightning, Mirage series, and others are well known but not often simulated. At least… until now.

Recently there’s been some moves by various third part developers for DCS World to get into this Cold War experience. They aren’t alone either as we’ve seen the developers of War Thunder expand that series, aircraft by aircraft, and technological leap alike into this same area. Suddenly the era of the first, second and third generation jet fighters with their barely better than WWII era avionics, impressive speed, questionable handling, and even more questionable guided weapons, has come into view.

In the case of DCS World, these aircraft are covering territory that has been less well covered over the years but in many cases is also a bit more accessible. There’s less messing around with guided missiles and more WWII style flying the airplane and pulling the trigger.

The skill is less academic and more muscle based and that often means it feels like you’re doing more even when your guns aren’t always on target and your barrage of missiles fired at the target missed by 100 meters. You still pulled the trigger, there was still an action, and you still got that little dose of dopamine. You may not quite have hit the target but you still did something! That holds appeal.

What’s here and what’s coming

This leap into the Cold War era has been building up for a long time. Magnitude 3 released their DCS: MiG-21bis, one of the first ever third party modules, into DCS World back in 2014. The MiG-21, the AK-47 of supersonic fighter jets, was a simple yet high performance jet fighter firmly rooted in the Cold War era but so well used that variants of the type are still on the frontlines of many air forces today.

Opposing the MiG-21 was the F-5. Developed by Eagle Dynamics briefly spun off Belsimtek group, this simple jet fighter was developed in the United States to offer to Allies looking for a cheaper jet fighter option. Its pairing with the MiG-21 made for the core of some Cold War era jet duels. Multiplayer experiences began to happen and the community took note.

The MiG-15bis and F-86 Sabre gave us a Korea War era duel although little else has emerged from that era so far.

Then it was Heatblur and their incredible AJS-37 Viggen. A low-level striker rooted deeply in Sweden’s Cold War era defensive strategy of employing robust jet fighters that could operate from a roadway or rough airstrip and strike hard and fast against predetermined targets.

Now there’s a growing slate of aircraft from the era available including RAZBAM’s MiG-19P, Aerges Mirage F1, Eagle Dynamics own Mi-24P Hind, Belsimtek’s UH-1 and Mi-8, and depending on how you slice it, the Heatblur F-14A Tomcat just to name some in the mix.

There’s more coming down the pipe too. The now legendary creative team at Heatblur are working on an A-6 Intruder and the F-4 Phantom II. The later is coming in a couple of variants including a semi-modern Air Force version now and an earlier Navy version at some undisclosed time in the future. The air force version is due by the end of the year if the schedule holds. IndiaFoxtEcho are about to imminently release their Aermacchi MB-339, a 1970s era jet trainer and light attack aircraft. Flying Iron Simulations have done good work with X-Plane and MSFS and are bringing their talents to create the A-7 Corsair II. Magnitude 3 are rebuilding their DCS: MiG-21bis with a version 2.0 release planned as well as creating the all new F-8 Crusader.

Just recently we’ve seen confirmation that AVIRON are now an official developer and are bringing their Kfir simulation project to DCS World as well. OctopusG, fresh off of the official release of their I-16 module, are going Cold War too with a swing-wing Su-22. RAZBAM, as they usually do, have several irons in the fire including a MiG-23MLA, the IA-58 Pucara, and have periodically shown off a Mirage III and 1970s or 1980s era Sea Harrier project too. They are also collaborators with Miltech-5 on a Bo-105 helicopter. Red Star Simulations have been quiet for a long time but their MiG-17 project would add yet another type to the mix.

Eagle Dynamics themselves have a few projects that might tie into a Cold War era theme. Briefly mentioned upgrades to the F-5 will help to enhance a staple of the multiplayer experience. Continued development of their Mi-24 Hind will do the same. Talked about introduction of the earliest MiG-29 model might fit into the era too. I’ve been not so secretly pulling for them to turn their Flaming Cliffs Su-25 and turn that into a full fidelity experience too.

What’s needed now?

DCS World is great at providing a sandbox but it often stumbles when it tries to unite content together under a banner. But it doesn’t have to be this way and I think there’s great opportunities for DCS World to maintain its sandbox while starting to link these aircraft together.

The first is in maps and a Cold War era themed map, similar to what we’ve seen from their WWII line, would help immensely. The new DCS: Kola map from Orbx, although not explicitly themed for the Cold War, will likely fit in just as well as Syria and other maps have. DCS: South Atlantic was built less as a Cold War and more as a modern day map but it still has promise to work in those scenarios anyways.

Continuing to add Cold War era assets like trucks, radars, SAM systems, and flak guns would also help. As it is, there’s less of a challenge here as many modern assets are the same or similar to those from decades before so there is less need for theming. But there is still a need to fill it out and “make it feel right.”

Of course the sim on the whole needs more core features to be filled out. Better performance, new and era appropriate radio comms, air traffic control services, and more are all things that the DCS experience would benefit from. When the dynamic campaign system comes it should be able to handle themes too with the player deciding if they want to engage in modern day jet BVR jet duels or if they want to fly something a little more old school.

Single player campaigns set in this era will surely follow along with the rest of this content. That I’m sure will begin to happen over time as there’s always a lag time between the introduction of modules and the rest of the supporting content.

Something we already can see happening is the expansion of Cold War era multiplayer experiences with Alpenwolf’s Cold War server being the long time favourite with Engima’s Cold War server coming in with considerable gusto and interest.

Final thoughts

Although it wasn’t originally part of the plan, these Cold War era jets and the assets supporting them have taken on greater emphasis and interest in the flight sim community as of late. While modern jets and helicopters are surely still a major staple and a big seller in DCS World, the recent turn towards what might be slightly more accessible Cold War era jets with their simpler systems and sometimes spicier flight models seems to have gathered some steam and begun to resonate with parts of the community.

This is an opportunity for us all to enjoy another era of flight and explore what the bleeding edge of the 1960s and 1970s offered in the form of military aviation. From jets to helicopters and beyond, I hope to see this trend accelerate alongside the more modern experiences that we already see from DCS World.

28 Comments Add yours

  1. Luke says:

    Maybe one day we will be flying F4 Phantoms or F8 Crusaders off the USS Kitty Hawk to dogfight MIG 17, 19 and 21’s over Hanoi on a recreated map of North Vietnam?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      I think that’s a distinct possibility. It’s not going to be necessarily next year but certainly over the next few years!

      Like

    2. 1_Robert_ says:

      This is what I’m hoping for. I’ve been waiting ever since Flight of the Intruder by Spectrum Holobyte. Ok I just dated myself.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ken-Dagfinn Rian says:

    I agree completely. I am very excited about the prospect of more Cold War content. That combined with the Kola Peninsula will make me come back to DCS again.

    I played the F-16 and the Liberation campaign for a little while, but lost interest. I just don’t have the time to deep dive into systems any longer.

    Mirage F1 over my hometown in Northern Norway is my goal right now. That and a dynamic campaign will certainly bring me back again. Oh, and maybe the A-7…oh…and the F-4….and A-6…and KFIR. Crap…studying again I guess…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Still plenty of study required. Just hopefully not quite as much 😊

      Like

  3. Warlock says:

    After owning more than 10 aircraft, both planes and helos, I came to the conclusion I love flying Cold War aircraft the most. I think that these are the most interesting aircraft, especially from a flight simmer point of view, where I don’t need to worry about crashing.
    It really brings back to life these machines, most of which are retired.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Warlock says:

      Oh, and speaking of Cold War machines, you really need to check out Reentry: An Orbital Simulator. It’s like DCS but for the entire US space program from Mercury to Apollo. It’s crazy good and doesn’t look like many people know about it.

      Like

      1. ShamrockOneFive says:

        Although I love space, my interest in simulating it is very limited. But maybe some folks will get into it – it’s a very niche area.

        Like

  4. Błażej Seremak says:

    Cold War era combat was simply more involving, depending more on pilot skills than pure technology, and more “spectacular” when you saw enemy with your own eyes, turning and burning or aiming iron bombs inside Osirak Baghdad nuclear reactor inside enemy SAM and AAA range.

    Even 4th gen fighters like F-16 or F/A-18 would be very different experience when modeled in 1980s version. Machines were far more unique, specialized, with pronounced strong points and limitations. Only in 2000s all airframes became so similar due to nearly identical avionics capabilities.

    Great article, thx.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Eviscerador says:

    Enigma published a YouTube video few weeks ago and most of his conclusions are very similar to yours, which I think we all share.

    But one of the main reasons the cold war is THE niche for DCS multiplayer is because we are not going to have proper 4th gen from the red side any time close. Very strict russian laws, the current situation in Ukraine and its expected consequences in the next years will mean it will be impossible to model properly anything 4th gen from Russia or China (bar export stuff like the jeff).

    Hence, for a healthy mp scene, the cold war scenario is the answer.

    Still we shouldn’t miss the big picture. Most people playing DCS never play multiplayer, they use the sandbox, the paid campaigns or they just fiddle with the mission editor. For the bulk of the simmer population, flying modern jets like the hornet, viper, mudhen, Eurofighter… Is what DCS is for.

    I’m happy with both. In fact I’m enjoying lately a spanish cold war server which also includes mid 80 planea like early hornets, vipers, harriers and the alpha Tomcat. No awacs, no gps, only fox 1 (and only fox 2 for the viper!) Iron bombs and mavericks without tgp, using the maverick sensor head with the new IR camera is a really challenging scenario. In fact I found myself using the TV maverick for static vehicles and the laser one where I can call a jtac. It’s totally different stuff and I really enjoy it.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Baltic Dude says:

    I’m REDFOR only but I’ll buy the Kfir just because it’s not just an uninteresting Mirage V. Mirage F.1 was a flop for me but every other cold war aircraft I can’t get enough of. Hopefully Black Shark 3 will release soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Baltic Dude says:

    I hope we get to see the Yak-38 one day, as its older than the MiG-29A which is barely within the timeframe ED is allowed. I’m not talking about that mod CubanAce is hopelessly working on for his enjoyment, but a real module. Also, I don’t think RAZBAM is making the IA-58 Pucara as a module but instead an AI aircraft.

    Like

  8. Baltic says:

    I hope we get to see the Yak-38 one day, as its older than the MiG-29A which is barely within the timeframe ED is allowed. I’m not talking about that mod CubanAce is hopelessly working on for his enjoyment, but a real module. Also, I don’t think RAZBAM is making the IA-58 Pucara as a module but instead an AI aircraft.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Yak-38 would be interesting!

      RAZBAM has confirmed that the IA-58 is a module they are building. You can see how detailed the cockpit is in the latest screenshots. https://twitter.com/razbam/status/1521198980461383685?s=21&t=vbUAmDQ4OfUXZM5_q36IUg

      Like

  9. CanadaOne says:

    Good article. Lots of fun stuff to think about in all that.

    Kola will me a good Cold War map, and I can see the SA map really being great with a bunch of older jets plowing around. Might be time to shift away from the helmet mounted displays and get back to the MKI Eyeball.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Baltic Dude says:

      I’m excited to fly I-16 in Kola. Hopefully some people make some good missions or campaigns there.

      Like

  10. Urgent Siesta says:

    Great perspective!

    It was touched upon, but I do believe the incredible complexity AND relative rarity of modern day +4th Gen jets is a significant driver for developers, too.

    Look how long it’s taking ED to “finish” Hornet, Viper, and now Apache. It’s not a lack of talent, it’s just a mountain of work for each one!

    Even the True Grit literal veterans couldn’t get it done by themselves and (thank god) turned to Heat Blur to help them finish EuroFighter.

    In any case, while Hornet remains my undisputed favorite, I’m enjoying the surge of new modules in the pipeline, AND the burgeoning Cold War server scene. 🙂

    Like

  11. PHANTOM1 says:

    Certainly, the Cold War era is most welcome and there’s tons available to add for it as well. The only gripe I have lately is maybe the lack of organized structure between groups with the option to go with the full on sandbox for those that want crazy scenarios like A10 vs P47. Perhaps have it setup to start with a specific trainer per era then progress into more advanced aircraft once you get established (as an option of course for those that want to really master things). Also, finish out some Persian Gulf areas like Iraq and Kuwait, and work on a Vietnam/Korea type map too.

    The tools to make all of it work seem to be there, but it’s a bit all over the place yet and might put off some newbies for getting a good grasp of where to start and where to go with everything.

    Plenty to do regardless between learning new aircraft, how to organize missions and tactics as well as joining some multi-player options/groups.

    Like

  12. Smythes says:

    Lets be honest. The Cold War is now our WWII in terms of time reference. Its great to see these planes coming which give a completely differenr experience!

    Like

    1. Baltic Dude says:

      I hope we get to see RAZBAM’s MiG-19S soon…

      Like

  13. Good article. The Cold War experience is more visceral and enjoyable by far.

    Plus the elephant in the room with modern is that BMS provides a more well rounded experience. Go Cold War!

    Like

  14. Gretsch_Man says:

    Just flying those cold war birds is sooo rewarding. And it makes hoping between modules so much easier. To stay on top of those more complex modules like the Hornet, you have to keep flying them regularly or you’ll forget many of its more complex procedures. With cold war modules this is less of an issue.

    Plus, those older cold war planes just look more sexy imo (ditto with old cars).

    Like

  15. Fear says:

    I was feeling some DCS fatigue recently and then I started flying cold war. I had my first successful F1 / Viggen strike missions and an intense dogfight on Enigma in the Mirage. I’m definitely sold on the Cold War era planes now

    Liked by 1 person

  16. MickV says:

    Couldn’t agree more with DCS’s love for the Cold War lately. Less complex modules, more enjoyable hands-on flying & fighting instead of lobbing Fox 3’s at a blip on the radar (tastes vary obviously) and fewer issues with in-service aircraft being modeled. Plus a vast array of different aircraft with very different missions, design philosophies and aesthetics, meaning LOTS of variety in modules for the consumer. Many niches to fill = more modules purchased, IMO. If you’ve mastered the Hornet or Viper, there’s not much to do with another modern, multirole fighter using the same weapons loadout.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. butcher75 says:

    Eagle Dynamics What do we have to do to get a Vietnam Map? We have so much potential for it. I know size is an issue but look at the Falkland’s Bemouth size, surely they can get it done.

    Like

  18. Mike Smith says:

    The Cold War, especially the first half (1947-1969), was a time when there was a lot of uncertainty. There were the big players USA and USSR, but other nations were also developing their own jets and there was a lot of experimentation. There were still many different manufacturers. So there were a lot of unique aircraft: Vulcan, EE Lightning, Canberra, Vampire, Buccaneer (and that’s just a few UK ones), all totally different. Same for France (Mirage III, Mirage F1, CM.170). Or Sweden (Lansen, Tunnan, Draken). Or Italy. Or many others. I could go on and on.

    Modern aircraft are very “samey”. This might be efficient in terms of production, training and military function, but it makes for really boring simulators.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Fun posts, I started DCS because of the modern jets but I have more fun with the cold war planes. I find it interesting how they are so different compared to modern planes.

    Liked by 1 person

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