A year ago if you’d asked me if I wanted to fly a C-130 in DCS I would have said, “Sure, yeah that’s cool!” and then gone back to flying the F-16 and F/A-18. I love seeing new aircraft working their way into the sim and more players doing more different types of tasks together is a really great thing to see. Now that we have a C-130J on the way and I have another year of experience behind me, I think I’m even more excited about the possibilities. Let’s explore.
Reading between the lines
There are a couple of things that stood out about yesterday’s announcement that the Airplane Simulation Company would be joining the list of third party DCS World devs and that they would be working to develop a C-130J for DCS World.
First, both screenshots and the teaser trailer reveal to me that this is a well evolved project already. A few have critiqued the announcement of the DCS: F-100 Super Sabre from a couple of weeks ago and to some extent I have to agree that that project appears to be in quite an early state. By contrast, this is a module that already has textures, a cockpit with at least some functioning instruments, and is already working within the sim.
That doesn’t mean that it isn’t many months or potentially years away from a release but it does mean that this isn’t a project that just started.
Then there’s the comment from Eagle Dynamics about “a new era of rich logistics gameplay in DCS” according to the DCS World Weekend. What this means could be many things but it does suggest that there’s an intention to develop more logistical play into the sim itself. Things that have previously been handled by scripts may now find their way into the core of the sim and its mission editor.
All of the cool things that you can do
The other thing that I find interesting about adding the C-130J into DCS World is the marriage of two different styles of flight simulation into one module.
One of the more popular ways to play Microsoft Flight Simulator, P3D and X-Plane is the high fidelity airliner. Some of the most popular flight sim streams and some of the highest grossing modules out there are simulations of airliners like the A320 and 737. X-Plane even supports a high fidelity, open source, free 737 mod called the Zibo-mod which is still held up as one of the most complete simulations of a 737 anywhere. I digress.
The C-130J looks like it will be bringing in elements of that type of flying into DCS World’s combat simulation. We don’t yet have confirmation on if DCS World’s C-130 will have full SIDS and STARS (for accurate approaches and departures into airports) but it already has other elements that military and civil aircraft both use including ILS and VOR/TACAN. Combine flying your standard instrument flight together with an aircraft that also sports features like a self protection system including a radar warning receiver, chaff and flare dispensers, and a targeting pod and you have the makings of some unique combinations.
C-130s are also asked to fly some unique mission profiles. A multi-mission MC-130J that was mentioned in the update could have you doing an aerial refuelling flight in contested airspace while flying a low altitude approach to avoid enemy air defenses and interceptors. You could be tasked with doing an air drop into a specific area. It could see you linking up with a tanker. Or you might fly a very standard approach into an airport. It may even combine elements of all of this type of flying in a single mission.
That does sound like some interesting flight simming! And that’s ignoring almost entirely any other sort of bigger picture logistical features that may end up getting baked into DCS World.
A new kind of module
DCS: C-130J represents a new kind of module for the sim. Excepting the Cristen Eagle II, nearly every module in DCS World is intended to play a direct role in a combat situation. These are almost entirely made up of attack aircraft, strikers, fighters and helicopters. The UH-1 and Mi-8 are the closest that we have to this kind of role but they too come packing some firepower when more direct action is needed. Now, we have a new more logistics oriented aircraft on the way with a unique set of features that plays a supporting role to those more direct operations.
I could see flying a C-130 on a PvE server helping to directly deliver the troops that help secure a forward airport for example. All while being supported by strikers, CAP, and SEAD players. Or, instead of seeking combat, you might be aiming to avoid combat while flying essential missions from one airbase to another airbase – maybe while scraping canyon floors and staying below the radar.
In recent times, I’ve been seeking out quieter and more contemplative flying experiences and while the C-130J might still find ways to ratchet up the tension at times, it would do it in a very different way. I’m very interested to see how this plays out.