IL-2’s C-47 Skytrain full aircraft review

Most aircraft added to the IL-2 Great Battles Series are fighters, attackers or bombers – combat aircraft. On occasion, however, we’ve had a few more unique entrants to the mix. Still military aircraft but not aircraft that participate directly in combat themselves. Military transports were essential parts of the war effort and many of them came into direct combat with the Luftwaffe’s Ju52 fleet suffering significant losses dropping supplies into the beleaguered Stalingrad and the Allied transport fleet getting used in several high-profile operations of their own. That fleet was lead by the iconic Douglas DC-3 airliner turned military transport with the designations of C-47, Skytain and Dakota. So, with this airplane now part of the series, how does it fit in, how is it being used, and should you buy this airplane? Let’s have a look!

A bit of history

A development of the DC-2, the Douglas Aircraft Company developed the DC-3 to be a larger offering complete with overnight sleeper arrangements in the top part of the fuselage. The earliest versions of the DC-3 even have thin windows arranged along the top bunk area. This arrangement seems to have been short lived but the rest of the design was sound and the DC-3 proved to be a more reliable airplane than its forebear. It was also cheap enough to operate the first all passenger services for the airliners that purchased the type. Previous airplanes required subsidies from mail deliveries to make their passenger services profitable.

The DC-3 catapulted civil airliner service in North America into the public consciousness in a way that previous types had not been able to do. American, United, TWA, Eastern, and Delta ordered over 400 of the type. War was brewing and the DC-3 was about to take on a new life.

The DC-3 fleet was drafted into military service and production kicked into high gear with over 10,000 of the type being produced for service in multiple air forces. The type received the C-47 designation in the USAAF and was named the Skytrain in that service. In Commonwealth service, the aircraft became known as the Dakota or the ‘Dak.’

The C-47 was used in nearly every utility role conceivable at the time. Flying cargo across difficult routes, dropping paratroopers on D-Day and during Operation Market Garden, or dropping relief supplies into German occupied Netherlands near the end of the war as part of Operation Manna and Operation Chowhound. Wherever Allied air forces were operating, the C-47 was there supporting the operation.

Post war, the type returned to mostly civilian service although some were returned to military use during the Vietnam-war proving the airborne gunship concept. Others went on to see use in remote regions of the world and there are still some DC-3 models still flying in regular service right up to the modern day. Others are preserved as part of military museum collections.

Visuals and sounds

Ugra Media were tapped to build the C-47 cockpit for the IL-2 Sturmovik: Great Battles Series and they seem to have come through admirably with a solid representation of the C-47 on the inside. It is a bit of a complicated cockpit and with some difficult texture work to overcome. I do think they recreated a wartime version of this aircraft very well well.

There are dirt and scratches in all of the appropriate spaces. Gauges are, as is typical in the series, clear and easy to read. All of the buttons and switches move either through pilot interaction or automatically in some instances. It feels very much alive.

The exterior of the model has been with us for years and it’s a pretty good one. There are a few spots where you might see a harder edge than maybe we should for an aircraft model in 2022. But on the whole it looks good. This C-47 also comes equipped with options for cargo, paratroopers, and para-dropped cargo pods that fit on the underside of the aircraft. That last one in particular you won’t find in any other sim that I know about. The fully animated and dropped paratroopers are also a unique feature for the IL-2 series. They look decently modelled and are an upgrade from what we saw from the early days of the Ju52 para-dropper teams.

Like the rest of the aircraft that have been released, the C-47 has all of the visual goodies like dynamic vehicle damage and the tactical code system. It also comes with a small variety of skins that are bolstered by generic skins that give you a variety of D-Day stripes with American and British markings as well as a VVS marked airplane too – on that note the Soviet Air Force did use C-47s as well as their own licensed built Li-2s.

Sounds are well done here too. The two radial engines have a convincing roar and many of the switches in the cockpit do have sounds on them although they are hard to hear when the engine is operating. I do love the start-up sequence on the C-47 as well as its very pleasing to hear these engines come to life. There’s also a warning sound that goes off when the paradroopers are supposed to drop. It’s so cool to hear that!

Features and uses

The first thing you should know about the C-47A? It has no weaponry of any kind. This is a utility airplane fighting in a war. Quite unlike other airplanes in the IL-2 series, this one accomplishes its goals not through any sort of force of arms directly but by delivering its cargo.

Let’s start with multiplayer. Prominent servers like Finnish Virtual Pilots and their Dynamic War scenario have factored logistics into their experience for years now. Until recently, the Ju52 was available on both teams, so as to let both team have a transport aircraft.

On this server they both fulfill dual roles. In the first role, both Ju52 and C-47 can start at an airstart and then fly to a forward airfield. Airfields have limited aircraft numbers and once those numbers are depleted the field becomes inactive until resupplied. A semi-constant stream of transports is essential to keep those fields functioning and here these transports fill in a vital role.

In the second role, these aircraft can make use of the paratrooper system to deploy troops in a forward position. That strengthens the position and makes it more likely that the frontline will move in your team’s favour. It’s a neat system!

I recently had the opportunity to participate in one of these missions on the Dynamic War server. Dropping a huge selection of paratroopers, in a loose formation, with your friends, while other elements provided fighter escort was incredible!

Check out the full story: Flight Journal: Flying the C-47 online.

In single player, the C-47 has several roles including landing at a forward location and depositing cargo, dropping paratroopers, and more. Here the mission is the accomplishment rather than a kill tally. Right now your only option is career mode with no AQMB missions currently available.

A nighttime foray into enemy territory carries with it significant challenge and the C-47’s relatively slow cruise speed means that it will take a while.

One of the things that I wanted to do with the C-47A right away was fly a moonlit night raid over Normandy in the hours before the D-Day invasion. And thanks to IL-2’s Career mode I was able to do just that. The tension and atmosphere was incredible as I lifted off into the darkened sky and cruised across the English channel on my way to drop the first elements of the invasion force. The career mode setup isn’t perfect and it doesn’t tell the scale and the scope of what was going on that night but it was nonetheless a special moment in my flight simming experience.

Check out the full story: Flight Journal: A C-47 in the night skies over D-Day.

The C-47 does come packed with some nice features to help make this easier. It has an autopilot built in with the ability to change course while still connected to the autopilot. Good for those long-haul missions over the channel. It also has a level flight indicator which, in this instance, seems to indicate only that you’re flying level – good for those paratroopers. There is a radar altimeter too, so you’ll have a more precise indication of height over the target before drop.

Flying the sky train

Nothing happens particularly fast in the C-47. Taxiing, takeoff, rolling and turning, the C-47 flies the way it looks. It’s solid but its not going to outperform any fighters. That said, it can pull a particularly tight turn once it ponderously rolls into position for said turn.

It does, however, fly beautifully and with a huge degree of confidence. So long as you stay ahead of it a little bit, the C-47 will reward you with a comfortable and easy flight. There are few bad habits to encounter here as the aircraft can takeoff and land at very low speeds. The only thing that has thrown me off a bit is the high landing gear which makes you feel like you’re still too high to touch down. I’ve been late to flare as a result.

Takeoff happens around 100 mph while I’ve seen it get as low as 80mph as I touched down with partial to full flaps. It’s easy to land so long as you keep on speed and flare at the right moment. Roll out is usually straight as well with little tendency to ground loop – at least not like some of the fighters do. Just don’t try and turn off the runway too soon.

A few issues

If there is an issue for me to bring up, it remains with the “game design” around these two transport aircraft rather than the aircraft themselves.

Although scoring doesn’t really factor very much in for me these days, I do understand the desire to acknowledge performing different kinds of roles. Shooting down enemy aircraft and destroying ground targets are both rewarded on the scoreboards in multiplayer servers and in single player too. Cargo aircraft on the other hand don’t get scored for tonnage delivered or anything like that. Its more of a pass/fail kind of system… either you dropped your troopers in the zone or you didn’t.

There’s also the matter of the co-pilot. We have no interaction with the co-pilots at all. They do look around which is cool, but they remain functionally a visual implementation and nothing more. There’s no assistance with engine settings nor any call-outs for enemy aircraft, vehicles, etc. That bugs some people more than it does me but if I were to point at something for improvement, its probably that.

Final thoughts

I am very happy to see the C-47 finally come to the IL-2 series. The inclusion of the Ju52 alone begged for an Allied answer and I can think of no better airplane to achieve that objective. Although the C-47 doesn’t necessarily see the IL-2 series up its game very much for logistics, it does fill them out a bit and it gives people the opportunity to fly an iconic airplane.

This is an iconic airplane with a long and storied history that is still being told and having it in the sim makes everything feel just a little more complete. It’s well modelled with good sounds, strong visuals that are in-keeping with the rest of the series, and great flight dynamics.

If 1CGS and Ugra Media stick to their original plan, a Russian license build Li-2 is also in the cards. This version will probably have some distinguishing features such as very different cockpit. Many Li-2s were also modified with bomb racks and with Russian turrets giving this type some unique features over the C-47.

The C-47A won’t be for everyone. For the virtual pilot who, like me, enjoys the challenge of a little logistics work while also potentially under fire in a single or multiplayer scenario, the C-47 has lots to like about it. Another great aircraft module!

Screenshots

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Raptorattacker says:

    Nailed it as usual Shamrock. If you were selling me a car then I couldn’t ever come back to you and question your description!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Haha thanks! I do my best to try and capture the complete picture. I don’t always quite reach there but I am to!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Stele says:

    I absolutely love flying the C-47 in the Finnish server. Getting to a front base safely requires planning of speed, altitude and communication with the team. So, it’s its own unique challenge.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s