Following up on Black Shark 3’s Igla missile effectiveness

I had a few comments made about my DCS: Ka-50 Black Shark 3 review that was posted yesterday. Specifically about my comments on the effectiveness of the Igla air-to-air missile. So, I decided to do a little testing and see what the fuss was about and here are my results and my thoughts.

Just how effective are these missiles?

One of the new features on the DCS: Ka-50 Black Shark 3 is the Igla air-to-air missile. The 9K38 Igla is primarily a man-portable infrared homing surface-to-air missile first developed by the Soviet Union in the late 1970s, entering service in 1981 and seeing use right up to the modern day.

In the real world, this missile packs a 1.17 kg / 2.6 lb with 390 g / 14 oz explosive. By contrast, an AIM-9 Sidewinder has a 9.4 kg / 20.8 lb warhead so we’re talking about a missile with a smaller payload than a Sidewinder.

According to a running tally on the Wikipedia Igla article, these missiles have reportedly downed a variety of types of aircraft over the years with its use in multiple conflicts. That includes a MiG-23UB, Mi-17, Su-25 and Su-34. Notably, two A-10C Warthogs were reportedly hit by these missiles during operations over Yugoslavia in 199 and both aircraft returned to base. Some of these reports are from the recent conflict and the fog of war naturally applies.

Moving away from the real world and venturing more firmly into the sim world, we have a bit of a controversy in the DCS community over the usefulness of these missiles versus helicopters in the sim. So I thought I’d test the effectiveness of them.

My observations

In my review, I mentioned that the Igla was capable of downing helicopters like the UH-1 and UH-60 in a single hit.

The biggest complaint I’ve heard is that two or more IGLA air-to-air missiles are required to score a confirmed kill. That is certainly the case with some of DCS’ tougher helicopters while others like the UH-1 and UH-60 seem to go down with a single hit. At least in my testing they did.

Stormbirds Black Shark 3 review

Some suggested that such a thing was impossible with the current modeling which contradicted my own experience so I went back and checked it again. And then I recorded a video!

First off, I can thoroughly debunk the notion that a single hit kill is impossible. In tests, both recorded and not recorded, I was able to down small helicopters like the UH-1 Huey and UH-60 Blackhawk in a single hit. The effect was almost immediate in these instances with the helicopters nosing down and going into the ground or losing power and pancaking.

In some other instances I was able to hit a UH-60 in the tail seemingly without effect. The second follow up hit caused significant damage and another downed helicopter. In further instances, and one that I recorded, the helicopter will be hit, be damaged, light on fire but otherwise continue flying for several minutes. I’d count it as a mission kill but not a kill.

Then I tried downing an Mi-8 and this proved difficult to achieve. In a few tests the helicopter seemed to take hits without any apparent damage. This is a larger helicopter and one with robust construction and a reputation both in the real world and in DCS for taking a few hits. This one proved difficult to down with the ‘Igla’ and I gave up. Notably, some of my missiles exploded near the Mi-8 but did not appear to cause any damage. Some were lured away by flares while others seemed to explode on target but cause no impact.

More thoughts

My tests were more for fun but they do prove the point that you can down some other helicopters in a single hit while in other instances they seem to have no discernible effect. That may mean there’s a bug with the weapon or that additional damage modeling is required to better show off the effect of a small missile. I suspect there are several factors at play here with this issue.

DCS damage modeling on helicopters and modern aircraft are not yet up to the same standard as the DCS warbirds are and so detailed failures and damage across specific parts is at a lower level of detail than many might expect in 2022. That is generally okay with jets firing missiles with large warheads at each other because it tends to be frequently either a complete destruction or a miss. With something like the ‘Igla’ with its small warhead… a more subtle effect is required and we don’t have that yet.

Another issue, or maybe a lack of one really, is that these are weapons that don’t always work both in the real world and in the sim. Sometimes flares cause them to explode nearby but not on the target. Fancy damage model or no, it may just not have caused an effect. There’s an impressive fireball but its perhaps the visuals that overstated the effect.

Yet another factor to consider is the angle that these missiles hit. The UH-1 that I downed in my most recent test (and that you can see in the video) was hit on the side. The UH-60 that I hit suffered two shots from behind: One that caused no apparent damage and another that caused catastrophic damage. Perhaps the way damage models work on rear hits and side hits is different or perhaps buggy. I don’t know that for a fact but it does look like side hits are more effective.

I’ve heard word from that Eagle Dynamics is looking into the ‘Igla’ damage effect although I’ve not yet been able to find a post stating that.

My suggestion for DCS: Ka-50 Black Shark 3 pilots is to be prepared for follow-up shot particularly when the target is known to be a larger or well protected one. And if none of that works… get out the 30mm cannon! When life gives you ‘Iglas’ make ‘Shipunov 2A42 autocannons’ out of them.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. CanadaOne says:

    I was banging away at Mi-26s with the Igla. Not always successfully to be sure. 🙂

    I’ll try some planes. If I can catch them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Were you able to down any Mi-26s? Those are among the toughest in the sim in my experience. I once hit one with a pair of AIM-9s and then had to go back around and gun it down with the AV-8B’s 25mm!


  2. TheGrizz 999 says:

    the igla seems to work well as a manpad…1 hit on my f/a 18 either kills me or makes a difficult RTB

    Liked by 1 person

  3. harryvoyager says:

    As I recall, doesn’t the AH-1 basically have no protection from the side? I recall it being panned for being able to be brought down by one rifle shot to the wrong spot.

    While 14oz of explosive is not large for a missile, that’s still gives times the payload in a MK108 mine shell. That just seems like something you wouldn’t want to ignore.


    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Oh you definitely wouldn’t want to ignore it. It’s small compared to the competition but still potent when it hits.

      I think the inconsistencies are down to the damage model mostly. But also people are missing shots (I was) and a near miss may not be enough to count as a hit – even though some may!


  4. Dave Stewart says:

    I unscientifically concur with your latest assessment, Went after 1 UH1 & 2 Blackhawk, the Huey, well it Blewy, but the UH-60’s were a bit more resiliant. Had to resort to strafing to finish the last one off.
    Needless to say in reality the KA-50 has not been see much in current world news, and the KA-52 has not fared very well against manpad’s of any description. The jobcentre’s could fill up with KA-52 driver, good rates, exciting opportunities…I’d pass at the moment! Even if it had a Chuck’s guide.(Any one who has not got my military sense of humour, need not apply for the military ok).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Yeah it sounds like we’re all having very similar experiences here. So that’s good. If its accurate I don’t know… but I did want to share my experience. I did get a very specific comment that it was “impossible” to down DCS helicopters with a single Igla hit and that is not the case. It’s just not all the time.


  5. Urgent Siesta says:

    For me, the issue is that the DCS ManPAD Igla seems to significantly outperform the ones the Ka-50 uses. AFAIK, the missiles are, IRL, exactly the same. So either ManPAD damage needs to be dialed down, or the Ka-50’s need to be dialed up.

    In any case, I LOVE the fact that we’ve got IR heaters on TWO choppers in DCS (well, 3 if you count Gazelle…), makes me feel a lot more confident when CAP shows up 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Davie Stewart says:

    I recall the RAF did tests in Wales so fighter pilots could down Hinds. Puma’s played the Hind, where if the Puma guys could keep the fighter in its , crayon on the screen sight, for account of 5 , they could claim. The fighters thought this would be a Turkey shoot, but it was anything but. Any fighter that failed to kill on first pass, usually got shot down when they did a big turn to try again, the chopper just turned to face them off. Wonder how that would play out with igla’s in play?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Urgent Siesta says:

      helos are so deadly that I believe the official doctrine is missile attack at longish range.


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