A several days ago Eagle Dynamics set me up with the preview build for the DCS: F-15E Strike Eagle by RAZBAM. I’ve flown as much of it as I can and here are some of my first impressions of the airplane. I also try to answer some of your questions, talk about how it feels to fly and more!
Update: 05/26/2023 at 4:02 pm – A few have commented on the availability of Link16 and I’m confirming on what datalink capabilities are available.
How it feels to fly
One of the things that I was most keen to learn about the F-15E when I started to fly it is how much it feels like the F-15C. Also, how different it feels too.
When flown completely clean, the F-15C and E feel the most similar. This is where the weight and drag of the two are closest together and so it makes sense to me that they are closely matched here. The F-15E has a bit more power but also more weight and drag with the conformal fuel tanks and their extra pylons hanging in the wind while the F-15C is a bit more spirited thanks to a cleaner setup. That all changes once you start putting stuff on the pylons.
While the F-15A through D are air superiority fighters by design, the F-15E took that formula and turned it into a strike airplane. The result is an incredibly deadly airplane but it does spoil the clean fighter aesthetic and instead of “not a pound for air to ground” we have quite a few pounds for air to ground with the Strike Eagle.
Flying the Strike Eagle clean, without a loadout, is not really what this jet is about. I loaded the F-15E up with a bunch of different configurations and the number of weapons on the pylons is impressive but that also changes the handling quite a bit.
Takeoff roll is slow to start though speed builds steadily. Quite unlike the F-15C, F-16C or F/A-18C in DCS, once you reach pull-up speed things still happen slowly. You rotate but the aircraft only gently pulls up from the ground – afterburners screaming away but you’re still just slowly gaining altitude. Again, that speed builds quickly and soon you’re climbing through 10,000 feet but things do feel quite a bit more sluggish.
Flying the F-15E in a combat scenario requires managing speed quite a bit more than some of the other aircraft that I’ve compared it to. Lugging around more fuel and weapons means you lose speed quickly, so each move – every turn, bank, roll, or climb – needs to be carefully considered. Stay on top of and ahead of things and you’ll be good and treated to a jet that feels supremely confident flying low or high. Let things get out of hand and you’ll be stalling and seeing and hearing warnings.
For those wondering, the F-15E like the C model in DCS, does not have fly-by-wire but it does have a stability augmentation system that manages controls and helps ensure stability in various conditions. The F-15 design is basically stable and these systems help to ensure ease of control. That makes it feel a bit more analogue but with some of the bad habits smoothed over. The result? A middle ground between the fly-by-wire jets which are highly managed by the flight control computer and the analogue jets.
How it looks and sounds
Anyone familiar with DCS World will know that the bar has been set very high in recent years. Nearly everyone from the third parties to Eagle Dynamics themselves have pushed the boundaries of what is possible visually. RAZBAM do not disappoint here.
From inside to outside, the F-15E is crisply detailed with beautiful modeling and texture work everywhere. It holds up under close scrutiny and from a distance. The roughmet texture work inside and out is also exceptionally good.
I’m telling you stuff you already know because we’ve been seeing the screenshots for months now. I can now confirm, on my own PC, that it is indeed excellent. I think it also pushes the bar higher here than what we’ve seen with the M-2000C and AV-8B and also shows to me that RAZBAM have really progressed with their capabilities. The HUD and multi-function displays are crisper than anything they’ve done before.
Both when viewed from a wide angle as from above as well as at various angles and close up, the cockpit is impressively detailed. A match for the best in DCS World in my estimation.
Front cockpit views.
Rear cockpit views.
There’s also a lot of work that’s been done on the sounds already. From in-cockpit voice lines, a unique sounding series of RWR tones, audible nozzle sounds, to the extremely subtle but just audibly there thump of the radar moving back and forth, this module already has quite a bit there in the aural landscape too. I’m not sure if RAZBAM are done with the work here and there are some areas that might need a tune-up but it is already good.
I’ve created a video called “Low and fast with the DCS: F-15E.” There’s no music, just the sights and sounds of DCS: Sinai and DCS: F-15E.
Loading up the DCS: F-15E fills me with the nostalgia of the classic arming screen from MicroProse’s F-15E Strike Eagle III which I spent many an hour on. Selecting your loadout is kind of its own mini-game as there are a lot of different but sometimes exclusive configurations that the jet can be configured with.
Although this isn’t the F-15E’s job by role, you can absolutely configure it in a purely air superiority configuration with various combinations of up to eight air to air missiles including an all AMRAAM configuration that gives you eight of the capable medium range missile to sling at targets. And you still have room for 3 fuel tanks and around 30,000 lbs of fuel when so configured.
The included default loadouts include the following:
- AIM-120C x2, ACMI Pod, GBU-12 x4, TGP, NVP
- AIM-120C x2, AIM-9M x2, GBU-10 x2, TGP, NVP, Fuel Tank x2
- AIM-120C x2, AIM-9M x2, GBU-12 x9, TGP, NVP, Fuel Tank x2
- AIM-120C x2, AIM-9M x2, Mk-84 x3, Mk-82AIR x12
- AIM-9M x4, AIM-7M x2, Mk-20 x2, NVP, Fuel Tanks x2
- AIM-9M x4, Mk-20 x12, NVP, Fuel Tanks x2
Physical pylon restrictions mean that you often need to make choices. Do you want to use the right or left conformal station to load-up on bombs or do you want to put a Sparrow or AMRAAM on the semi-recessed stations that the F-15E inherited from the air superiority Eagles? You can load the jet up in a asymmetric configuration too with bombs on the left (or right) conformal stations and AMRAAMs on the right semi-recessed station.
You can also bring more Mk-84 500lb bombs, six per conformal station, than you can bring laser guided bombs as the lengthier GBU-12 500lb configuration means there’s only enough room for four. Tradeoffs everywhere. Still, when fully configured you can still bring nine GBU-12s plus the targeting pod plus a mix of four air to air missiles and a pair of fuel tanks all at once. Far more than with the Hornet or Viper!
Workflows and combat
It’s going to take me months to get fully accustomed to the Strike Eagle way of doing things. I had kind of hoped that the jet would be a bit more familiar in operation having learned my way through the Hornet (another McDonnell Douglass aircraft), the Viper and Thunderbolt II (air force configured jets), or even the Harrier, however, it has unique features too. I would say its a bit more Hornet than it is Viper or Thunderbolt.
To be clear, a lot of the switchology in the jet will be familiar to those who have flown other American fighter jets in DCS and in other sims. Looking around the F-15E’s big cockpit you’ll find a clean and clear set of buttons for most things from oxygen to lights to engine start-up. Most of the F-15E is going to be very familiar at that level.
What is taking me the time to get into the flow is with the jet’s multi-function panels. In overall concept, you’ll find that they work like something of a mix between the F-16, A-10, AV-8B and F/A-18 but are also their own thing. If you’re an F-16C or A-10C driver, the heavy reliance on HOTAS commands will be familiar but you’ll find yourself pushing a few more buttons on the panels than you would on those jets. At that point, its a bit more like a Hornet.
There are some nice features too where you can use the castle switch in combination with your own custom settings on the displays to choose which left, right and down movements will cycle through specific screens. You can develop a very specific workflow here if you want to!
There is a ton of capability with this jet. The
F-15E has Link 16 (currently confirming this), it has a much larger HUD than any other DCS jet, it has an incredible radar (which I just have only just scratched the surface with), and it carries all of the weapons that I talked about in the previous section. RAZBAM have also just gotten started in the weapons area as additional modern capabilities such as JDAM are coming later – for now its laser guided bombs, dumb munitions, and the full air to air package. Highly capable already but somewhat constrained compared to the way it will be when they are done.
In air to air, the F-15E can fight even while loaded out for a strike mission by using a radar that can see and track targets at incredible distances (80nm lock on is possible), with speed and altitude, and then by firing medium range missiles in BVR duels. Here the F-15E is great and it can essentially self escort its way to the target by swatting away less capable interceptors – almost with ease.
More sophisticated foes will probably necessitate a dedicated fighter sweep but that should surprise no-one. Dogfighting in such a configuration is a no-no however as the heavy jet would struggle almost immediately without jettisoning the heavy ordinance.
There is no AI yet for the F-15E. RAZBAM are going to implement one later on but until then the F-15E is, in single player at least, a single seat at a time experience. Quite unlike the F-14, the F-15E is fully functional from just the front seat. You can, absolutely, jump to the back seat if you want, but the real advantage of the F-15E is splitting the workload between two brains across the same distributed systems. I can see this being quite a bit of fun in multiplayer with the back-seater identifying targets while the front seat manages threats and flies the jet.
One of my regular readers had a great question about key bindings and if there were sufficient keybinds for different controls. In my experience so far, yes, I think most people will be satisfied with how RAZBAM have laid everything out in the key bindings.
RAZBAM do now have years of experience building modules for DCS World and they have learned to incorporate both individual button presses and toggles into most commands. There are axis and button presses for the TDC too – seems like an obvious thing but its good to see from the beginning.
Weapons mode switches are also well represented with the ability to select each mode (GUN, SRM, MRM) individually or as part of a cycle (MRM-SRM-GUN, GUN-SRM-MRM) and even some more unique combinations like GUN else SRM and MRM else SRM. Is there a configuration they haven’t thought of that you might want. I’m guessing maybe there is but I see an awful lot of good attention to detail on how people with different home setups can bind their controls.
Nearly but not quite ready
I know a few have already expressed some jealousy over having access to the preview of the F-15E. While I can say that it’s been fun to get an early look at it, it’s also clear to me that they are still hammering out a few bugs and sorting out some details. And that’s ok!
For example, one of the bugs that I noticed early on was pressing the weapon jettison button. The button became stuck to the in-position and the weapons didn’t want to jettison – not until I bound a key on my HOTAS for it anyways. I’ve had what I think may have been an isolated audio glitch too although I can’t be sure.
None of these should be taken as criticism right now because the jet is not out yet and nothing in this preview has caused me any significant concern. Hammering down these details is precisely what the team is very likely doing as it gets ready for an early access release. That’s why it hasn’t been released yet and putting up with some of those issues is par for the course with a preview.
Still, this is nearly there with the polish that such a complex bird will need. Will some of you find more problems after release? I have no doubt! But I still feel good about this module right now.
There’s a complex Venn-diagram forming in my head around who is going to love the F-15E Strike Eagle and who is going to give it a pass. Those who are specialists on other types of western jet fighters might also find the Strike Eagle’s unique combination of workflows to be disruptive to flying their other jets. Those looking for a clickable F-15C will probably struggle here too with the F-15E’s strike optimized configuration weighing down the type’s dogfight performance.
On the other hand, those looking for a more F-111/Tornado/strike bomber type experience will find the F-15E to be right up their alley. This is a strike aircraft and it is supremely capable thanks to ample air to air and air to ground ability! There are a huge array of capabilities right from the first early access release and so dedicated Strike Eagle drivers are going to have a ton of fun tearing up multiplayer servers by fighting their way through enemy air defenses and striking targets with a massive payload.
I’ve just scratched the surface with this jet and I admit to feeling a bit guilty that I haven’t been able to commit more time to going over it – but I wanted to get out what I did have. It does, honestly, take me months and years to learn DCS jets in detail and with the F-15E you have a jet that is very sophisticated and complex with a lot of systems to bring to bear.
This is a very in-depth experience and one that should satisfy quite a few flyers when it comes out. I can’t anticipate what issues we might run into post launch when thousands of people take to the skies in this jet at once (something always comes up) but I have a high degree of confidence right now that this will be a satisfying launch for most people once its in their hands.
Although there’s always the possibility for drama and minor disaster with a DCS module launch, we’ve all seen them, I also feel like RAZBAM have taken everything they have learned over the years with the AV-8B, with the M-2000C, and even with the MiG-19 and worked as hard as possible to make this their best module. The numerous overhauls of the AV-8B and M-2000C have transformed those modules over the years but in the F-15E Strike Eagle I think we have what will eventually become their magnum opus! I’m cautiously optimistic.
When it does release…
We’ve learned that the F-15E is releasing sometime in July. What we get in July will include everything that I’ve seen today plus surely some additional polishing work to get it ready. At the moment, the jet is available for pre-order sale and the 30% off discount does make it a little extra appealing bringing the price down to $55.99 from $79.99 USD. Learn more about it on the Eagle Dynamics store.
25 Comments Add yours
Aside from the totally porked manner in which ED and RazBam have handled the roll out, this is looking like a great plane. Definitely seeing it as more F-111 than F-15C. I might fly this thing for a year without going A2A. It’s all about the fancy radar and big kabooms! Any word on the GBU-28?
And this plane just screams out for Voice Attack. With 101 controls, and then maybe 101 more, I won’t feel guilty about a few shortcuts. Looks like the learning curve will eat up a lot of brain cells.
But it’s great to see you getting early access and making videos.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I can definitely see Voice Attack being of major use. There’s a lot to do.
You know, I kind of forgot all about the GBU-28. I will have a look at it as soon as I can.
I think this one is going to be a good one. The initial roll out wasn’t ideal but the module itself feels really good to me so far!
Great review as usual, I’m green with envy, of course, not fair the grown ups get first 👀 😆 . But looks like it’ll be out for my birthday 🥳
LikeLiked by 1 person
I think it will be worth the wait!
Thank you for the preview and answering my question!
Envy intensifies 🙂
Appreciate your take on things.
What I always look forward to when another multi-crew gets released is the immersion that is created when you can see the other crewmember going through his/her motions. For me that pinnacle of immersion is the way Heatblurs F-14 does it. You can see the pilot/rio move and look. You can look and nod at each other.
Do you know if Razbams F-15E gets it right?
It might be completely my imagination, but I’m hearing a frequent looping sound in the video. It’s very fast, about 2.5x per second, and the best I can describe it in words is a faint “near-near-near” sound. It reminds me of older games that used looping samples for engine noises (thinking back to EAW). Is that the radar sound you mentioned? It’s very prominent once you notice it.
I’m listening on a smart phone and it’s pre-release so I’m not really worried. Just curious if I’m the only one hearing it.
Radar antena sound? I know this one was mentioned by one of youtubers somewhere.
I got EA but I am wondering if this is for me. It looks like a 2nd day job to get anywhere near competence.
Surprised what you said about the t/o experience. Without stores this thing should vanish into the stratosphere.
I was probably not too careful with my fuel weights. Even without the external tanks, the F-15E carries so much more gas in those conformal tanks.
I´ m waiting for this since 30 years. Last time I flew the F-15E was with Strike Eagle III from Microprose. Yes that looks fantastic. I take both map and plane. Hope both will be released in Juli.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I have fond memories of that sim too!
As much as it shocks me, I can see moving on from Hornet to Strike Eagle for most flights.
One of the biggest draws on this module for me is the night vision HUD, along with the hi res ground radar (F-111, indeed!).
Combine that with the excellent A2A capability and it’s looking more and more like this will be my “Goldilocks” module.
* I guess I’ll have to get my carrier ops fix from the relatively simple (and ever-improving) Tomcat – but that’s just fine with me 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
Great review as always! You mentioned multicrew and that the front seat can do pretty much everything, is there an AI menu like in the F14, Apache or Hind? Or its not a role specific back seat?
Just wondering if we are going to have another AI menu made by a different dev…
RAZBAM have announced that an AI system will arrive later. It does not have a command wheel menu like the F-14, Apache or Hind right now.
So for the moment you are essentially alone in the jet. It is quite a different setup than those other three as the F-15E’s front and back seats are more generalists with both able to fly, fight, and manage the systems on close to the same level (the back seat doesn’t get a HUD but it can use a HUD repeater on one of the screens).
Am sure that you can land it on a carrier, its just not recommended.
LikeLiked by 1 person
This is looking very pretty. Been planning on getting back into DCS on the F-14, but this one is so very tempting.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yeah if you like this kind of jet I think this one will tick most of the boxes!
If you’ve been following along the discord (Razbam Strike Eagle area) for … well forever, the SME’s are fairly critical of the F-15C flight model in DCS. It is after all not the “PFM+” or “PFM” system of the Hornet or Viper. It’s the “AFM” of the FC3 aircrafts. Just meaning, the C might not really be a fair comparison point anyway.
On the two points, the F-15C flight model may have issues and I have no ability to be able to make a judgement on it. So I can compare my DCS experiences as a common frame of reference but that’s all. It is still useful to compare as it’s a shared experience for many.
It does in fact have the same PFM system as the rest of the high fidelity airplanes. I remember when it was updated. It’s also listed here: https://www.digitalcombatsimulator.com/en/support/faq/general/
I’m sure the system as much as it’s implementation is important.
Huh. I have no recollection of it being updated. It has been a good 18 months or so since I was on that page. Thanks for the clarification.
The update happened before I started Stormbirds so it’s 7-8 years ago or more.
It may have been the first together with the Su-27… it was 2018ish when the MiG-29A/G/S got the same treatment.
This is a great preview thank you!!
I’d like to ask an odd question about the map rather than the strike eagle… do you think the Sinai map would make a good stand in for WW2 North Africa?!
That’s actually quite the interesting question. Have you seen my previews of the Sinai map?
I’d probably say maybe but you’d have to very carefully fly in areas that weren’t adorned with modern structures. That might be challenging because even the sparsely populated areas have some and you’ll find things like solar panel arrays out in the middle of the desert.
I saw your amazing low-level over Sinai in the Strike Eagle. I think I read some of the map is less detailed so I had wondered about that, or even just where I’m too high to see modern stuff from a spitfire. May sound trivial but I really would love it to be even vaguely possible. I’ll check your Sinai preview thanks!