Flight Journal: A C-47 in the night skies over D-Day

When 1C Game Studios announced that the C-47A Collector Plane would be coming to the IL-2 Sturmovik: Great Battles Series, the thing that I immediately sprung to mind was the parachute drop scene from the HBO Band of Brothers series. Now that it has arrived, I wanted to simulate that flight and it was very interesting.

Historical moments

Starting a new career with the 301st Troop Carrier Squadron, 441st Troop Carrier Group, U.S. 9th Air Force, my first mission put me into the air near midnight on June 5th with just a few hours to go before the invasion across the channel would begin.

As I mentioned in the introduction, Band of Brother’s and the scene with the aircraft taking off into the dusk filled my head as we headed out in a large group of six aircraft.

Career mode in IL-2 does lack some features when it comes to missions like these. Although we do get the correct kind of mission on the night of, what it lacks is some of the other hustle and bustle of the invasion. For a huge variety of reasons from system resources to scale and scope of the project, we don’t have the invasion fleet moving into the channel, there aren’t masses of C-47s all going into the same area. Things are more spread out and implied.

I got my start with flight sims in the era where entire aircraft were simulated with fewer polygons than the landing gear strut on the C-47A in IL-2 Great Battles. A little imagination goes a long way in these instances and although it wasn’t there on the screen… history books, TV shows and movies all filled in the blanks for me. IL-2 didn’t hurt either as we crossed the moonlit channel.

Takeoff

Starting on the runway, with fires lit to mark the sides of the field and spotlights aimed at our aircraft to aid in the setup, we also had the benefit of the moon casting a bluish glow over the whole of the scene. I have to say that IL-2’s night lighting setup is seemingly unique and very interesting in its ability to give us both a darkened scene without making the sim impossible to experience and replicating that all important night vision.

I toggled on the UV lamps to see the instruments better as we climbed out occasionally flicking on the full lighting before going back to just UV lamps.

In the background, I had Medal of Honor: Airborne (Original Soundtrack) by Michael Giacchino playing in the background. As it turned out, the soundtrack was able to play through almost completely with the ending theme coming on just as I was landing.

Moonlit glow and drop

Crossing over the coast we saw no enemy action and proceeded to our drop zone. It was remarkably close to Sainte-Mère-Église on the Cotentin Peninsula. Beneath us, darkened structures and an occupied France that was about to see significant change in this key moment in history.

We reached out drop zone and I dropped to 2,000 feet. Still a bit high for a drop but about as low as the AI formation wanted to go.

I ordered them to drop on my command and then moments later initiated the drop. Cargo packages under the aircraft dropped away and paratroopers began filing out of the airplane in a huge collection of parachutes. It’s iconic moments like this that just make this whole thing come alive.

With our objective accomplished, it was time to return to base across the channel.

Then a bit of stumbling around in the dark before finding our home field and using the airfield fires and spotlights to get the landing.

Thoughts

This opening salvo of a C-47 career came with all kinds of great things and a few disappointments. No flak, searchlights or defenses were spotted during the entire encounter. While I expect not every drop was met with Hollywood levels of flak I was a bit surprised that the threat really never materialized. Maybe my expectations are wrong on that one.

The AI also doesn’t seem to want to dip under 2,000 feet to do the drop. Nor are they happy about decreasing speed to around the 90 mph mark where airborne drops were usually conducted. So, a bit of an issue there. Best to just stick to a slightly higher drop point and keep the AI happy. The objective is accomplished either way!

I do wish of course that there were more indications of the invasion about to happen. Again, maybe that’s just outside of the scope of what a C-47 pilot would have seen. They were there in my imagination.

The rest of the experience was outstanding. The moonlit clouds and inky channel beneath were captured beautifully detail. The C-47 itself also impressed me greatly and a full review of that is on the way too.

In the meantime, a few more trips across the channel are coming up!

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Snowy says:

    Very soon after it became available we put together a night drop mission for some of the guys at Flying Tin Cans. It followed as closely as possible the British route with ships placed along our particular flight path and plenty of flak near the drop zone. Seems like hours of slow, ponderous flying followed by a few seconds of terror then more slow, ponderous flying. I loved it. IL-2 have done a great job with their C-47.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      That sounds awesome!

      Like

  2. sunrrrise says:

    Unfortunatelly it is more and more clear that what was working great in case of Rise Of Flight (and now Flying Circus) and was fine for Stalingrad, Moscow (and perhaps even Kuban) is definetely faaar from enough for Western front. The lack of radio comms, big formations, big number of flying units, strategic bombers, ground radar guidance and so on, completely kills immersion.

    Like

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      I think we are at some of the limits of the current system. That’s why I’m struggling to criticize some of the recent moves for Collector Planes, IF, and I have to stress IF, it is as they have implied is the case that they are making moves towards a new generation.

      Like

    2. Urgent Siesta says:

      I think you might be surprised at the amount of activity that was going on in the other theaters, perhaps because it’s never been adequately portrayed in western media.

      In any case, the same challenges exist in other combat games, and in terms of AI movements, even P3D and MSFS really start to struggle if you have more than just a bit of that going on. It’s particularly noticeable in MSFS due to the ability to show other live players, on top of regular AI and AI addons.

      And if you get the type of massed units all moving, such as around a very busy area like KLAX, with a lot of scenery detail, even the newly coded MSFS can be brought to its knees by the computational load.

      I think it’s tempting to believe we should be able to experience in game what we’ve been able to see in movies such as Independence Day, etc., but that’s a completely non-interactive environment.

      As SB said, it seems like 1CGS should’ve put a bit more action into this mission, as once you’re under attack, the immersion goes through the roof.

      Like

  3. Urgent Siesta says:

    Once again, great story and balanced analysis like this is what sets StormBirds apart – well done, sir!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Many thanks!

      Like

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