Flight Journal: Teamwork on Rotorheads with the Black Shark 3

I was on popular DCS World PvE helicopter server ‘Rotorheads’ today with friend and flight sim developer Jon (developer of Roger Meatball and working on some other exciting projects these days) to put our helicopter skills to good use tackling the enemy forces with our combined efforts. Teamwork, firepower, some close calls, and unfortunate events all culminated in a very fun multiplayer experience. Here’s what happened!

Blackshark out from FARP Alpha

My helicopter of choice for this outing was the recently released Ka-50 Black Shark 3. Having recently relearned its systems and reviewed the helicopter, it was the type most familiar to me and the one that I was itching to take into into a more dynamic scenario.

Loading up into the server, I set out from FARP Alpha. Located to the south of the target area on the DCS: Syria map, I took off and headed north up a valley and met up with Jon. For this mission, Jon was flying the SA342M Gazelle. The Gazelle on this server has a unique role that enables it to spot and place smoke markers on targets. This increases the chances of spotting enemy forces coming into our defensive position located in the town of Reyhanli located in Türkiye and not too far from Aleppo, Syria.

Eliminating the BTRs!

Our first target came right up. Jon spotted a BTR-90 heading down the road and moving quite fast towards friendly lines. I hunted for it but was unable to spot it until it was already quite close. Taking evasive action from its gunner, I swung around while Jon’s Gazelle drew fire.

Repositioned and ready to engage the BTR, I was this time able to spot it, however, it was far too close for a Vikhr anti-tank missile shot so I switched immediately to the 2A42 30 mm cannon. Three bursts into the APC and it was on fire. However, crew from the APC disembarked and began firing at me so I dove for the ground and made a tight turn back into the target zone firing a barrage of rockets. I don’t think I eliminated these troops but the fire may have suppressed them (is that a thing in DCS?).

Jon spotted a stationary BTR with smoke and I spotted and dispatched it quickly with a Vikhr. Having a buddy in a helicopter spotting targets makes the job much easier!

At this point, Jon had a soldier with a Igla MANPAD in sight and eliminated the target with a HOT anti-tank missile.

Repositioned now just to the north of our FARP I began taking fire from a pair of BTRs on a hillside. Taking evasive action, I dove down and out of sight initiating a pop-up from much further away. Sure enough, both BTRs were in my sights. With my spotting laser armed, Shkval locked on, I fired off one Vikhr and hit a BTR. Then another in a repeat of the same action for the first one. Targets destroyed!

I flew over still more destroyed vehicles as this was clearly the site of a major engagement earlier in the day. Part of the dynamic and evolving nature of the online experience.

Jon and I regrouped. He landed and rearmed before heading back out again. A BTR caused us some major trouble with the gunner landing several hits on my Black Shark. Although the helicopter was still flying I had lost a wing (and its weapon pylons) and several systems were no longer functional. Time for a repair if I could make it.

Back to the nearby FARP for repairs although a stutter on the server caused my otherwise smooth landing to become less than smooth.

Jon meanwhile extracted some vengeance by hitting the BTR with a well aimed HOT before landing to rearm. Back at the FARP I was waiting for repairs. Eventually my helicopter was restored to working order and I was back up in the air!

Repaired and ready

We were both back up in the air and ready to take on the enemy some more. With yet another target spotted by Jon and the Gazelle, I slewed my sensors, locked the target and lit loose with a Vikhr. Boom!

Still more enemy vehicles were on their way down the road and Jon and I engaged still more ground targets. Our next target was on a hillside located far too close to the local FARP and so we set about attacking it.

Located in some trees, I made an educated guess and aimed a mostly blind shot at the target. The Vikhr missile tracked successfully but there was no indication of a hit. We knew the vehicle was located near the smoke but we couldn’t see it. I switched to rockets and hit the area with multiple high explosive rockets to little effect. TacView later recorded that these rockets did hit but they didn’t finish off the target.

Then Jon got a bead on him and unleashed another HOT. The BTR exploded and black smoke rose up from the forest. Another target dispatched!

It was getting late in our session but I thought we could handle at least one more target. What could go wrong? We were on a roll! Famous last words of course.

Closing in on a roadway where a group of enemy tanks and APCs were traveling, Jon was able to spot and bring up red smoke on the target zone. It was far closer to my helicopter than I had planned. I was right on top of them! Keeping my speed I initiated a tight defensive turn trying to throw the gunners but failing.

Fire rose up from the column and my Blackshark was hit a few too many times. The tail detatched and before I could eject… I hit the ground.

Jon managed to avenge my death with yet another one of his well placed HOT missiles. Right on target!

Final thoughts

First, this was an insanely fun experience. With the Black Shark 3 just out recently, I had done single player missions but I wanted to get it out into something a little more dynamic and less canned. This was exactly what I was looking for.

Teaming up with Jon was also great fun. If I was on there myself I would have mostly been wandering around looking for targets and finding some but failing to get others. With two of us and the unique scripting nature of the server enabling scout helicopters to put smoke on target areas we were able to spot and engage many more targets than if each of us had acted alone.

The Black Shark 3 remains a very fun helicopter and its new missile warning system is both useful and challenging to use. Jon or another helicopter firing a missile results in the same kind of warning that an enemy Igla or other nearby SAM causes. In other words, you’ll get quite a few warnings and not all of them need to be heeded as an immediate threat. That can breed complacency.

This experience also reminded me why DCS so desperately needs core updates to keep it functioning. Both Jon and I experienced stutters at the same time. We were comparing notes and while we don’t know what specifically is causing it, it appears to be both a function of whats on our screens and what is going on with the server. The stuttering was near constant and it in some places caused near crashes with the ground (or in my case a botched landing).

In past years I was forgiving of this with modest system specs, however, my one year old system is a bit of a beast with an RTX 3080ti and 64 GB of RAM plus a 12th gen i7 CPU driving the whole thing and the sim running off of a pretty fast Samsung 870EVO SSD. I’m not not one to brag about system specs but I make the point that this system should be able to handle this scenario without issue. Not every DCS server is like this and not every time on Rotorheads is like this – but it does need work.

DCS is getting key core updates and some of them may be relatively soon so lets hope that this helps!

Also, if I can put in a good word… can we have a new FARP object some time? The ones we have now are a bit out of date and I’m sure some of those top notch modelers at Eagle Dynamics could put something together that would be functional in these environments but also beautiful.

On a more positive note, none of those issues downplay the fact that this kind of DCS multiplayer experience can be absolutely terrific. I walked away with a sense of fun and accomplishment that I haven’t felt for a while. This was just great! So, bring a friend or go solo and bring your preferred attack helicopter on to Rotorheads (or just check out their live map)!


6 Comments Add yours

  1. It is such a fun server and when you get into the logi side of things and all working as a part of the ongoing efforts day to day it is really immersive, if a little same-y at times (if I had to add a negative).
    The server, I find, does suffer a bit depending on what people are doing, i.e. if someone is marking a lot of targets with smoke then the server folds in on itself. Latest DCS update apparently knocked people’s performance back after the previous one improved it a little so whatever they messed with they need to mess with again LOL

    Great flight journal and good to see Jon living his best life too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Yeah it’s a good server! Hopefully glitches in the performance can be solved because this was otherwise such a great experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Al-Azraq says:

    I love your Flight Journals!

    Also by reading this made me want to jump into Rotorheads, I flew the Mi-24 sometimes there. Unfortunately currently I do not have time at all to fly, but this won’t last forever.

    Watching Jon in the Gazelle spotting targets for you is great as well, and reminded me of the Kiowa which is coming and I can’t wait.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Glad you enjoyed the read! Yes, the Kiowa and it’s role as a scout helicopter was top of mind the whole time. Even better integration potentially because it can designate targets and an Apache crew could put a laser Hellfire on it. A future flight journal hopefully!


  3. Blue 5 says:

    Great read and I hope this Spring to upgrade my system something closer to yours. Not buying the BS as my wallet awaits the F-4.

    OT, but any inside knowledge on the 1C / GB? Post Jason they have reverted to type and decided no info is good info. Hoping someone with their ear to the ground might have a hint of what might be rolling…?


    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Glad you enjoyed the read!

      No, nothing of consequence from that direction. I’m pretty sure we’re not going to hear much from them this year aside from some smaller content updates like the ones that we’ve been shown already.


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