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Random Squawks for Sim Jocks

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I was not one to ever look at the Microsoft Flight Simulator series. But it was one of Tom's uploads that sparked my interest and then I waited for a sale of the FSX Steam.

He uploaded a model for the deHavilland Canada DHC-6 TwinOtter Extended - Air Inuit from Aerosoft



It was just a reminder of all the lore and tales I had learned just from knowing the history of Canada.

I suddenly recognized that there had been a small hunger to fly above my home and native lands (Canada) The story of Canada is more geography than history. The Far North, the Laurentian Shield and the Rockies are all steeped with winter tales of flying daring-do.

Popular Culture

Much more than American or European popular culture, there is a certain romance(covering a gritty realty) of frontier cultures. Not just the Canadian North but various places in the world served often only by aircraft. Beyond the end of the road.

From Russian Siberia to distant landing strips in Brazilian jungles (be careful when googling "brazilian landing strip"), there are many regions between total isolation and a freeway connection. Tough places that require tough people to get it done.

And another cultural feature is there being are a lot more television shows in Canada like Arctic Air (http://www.cbc.ca/arcticair/) and Danger Bay that feature these types of flight tales . And following the recent trend of reality-TV shows about working people, there is Ice Pilots NWT(http://www.icepilots.com/). Interesting and it digs down into the details that propeller-heads like ourselves really like. A recent episode had the ground-crew of Buffalo Airlines trying to fit urgently-needed generators into the cargo bay of a DC-4 and flying a water-bomber to Turkey and training a Turkish crew for the sale.

Loaded a Default DHC Beaver

Not yet willing to shell out cash for the Otter, I chose the default DHC Beaver plane, winter conditions, and tried to take off from the runway.

No go


Apparently it is a float-plane. Float as in water. Needed water for that but I was fooled because I have seen combo float-ski planes. But there was also something about the winter terrain. Something austere and moving like when I had flown the original IL2 campaign in winter.

I then tried flying on another location (showing an anchor at the location) and lifted off for some touch-and-go's on the water.


So I will occasionally take a whirl in the sky flying through winter and having a gentle good time. All I need now are ski kits modded onto my MiG-21 and I am ready to go.

After Tom's welcome to MudSpike, I decided to wait a bit to see what it was like and to see what was offered. There's not much "press" for simulations out there. A lot of sim coverage is watered down in the popular web-press. Any list of simulations on Steam or Origin will have a long list of Sims4 packs/expansion but not much of the stuff we love.


Opening its doors in January 2015, the Mudspike web-site is a collaboration between contributors Chris "BeachAV8R” Frishmuth, fearless frog, and Erik "EinsteinEP" Pierce. It covers hands-on sessions, reviews of missions and campaigns, After Action Reports, Retro-looks, Reviews, and Tutorials & Reference.

It is well-organized with a well-considered and very polished layout. There's already been a good amount of content developed with a wide range of subject areas. They even included a few retro features on Stealth Fighter 2 and Silent Hunter 4. As much as a graphics whore as I am, I have to admit I was transfixed back in the day by the graphics and, of course, by the emergent game-play.

The Mudspike name comes from your wingman calling out a SAM that has pinged him; a warning to watch out and get ready.

After Action Reports

This is an an exciting part of the web-site where a mission or campaign is run through for the by a Mudspike contributor. I have often seen them in war-game forums.

They usually take the reader into the depths of the game. And it's done deeply enough that experienced flyers will recognize the difficulties facing any flyer. And for those beginners who have not gone deep into the flight sim as yet, they can get a measure of the full flying experience. Moar please.

Tutorials or References

One thing that we flight-simmers get to discover is new systems and new methods. It is not an Easter Egg or a quick trick, but a full extension of the flying experience. Mudspike has a few of them and I look forward to more.

I have tended to do more of the tutorials. Just by pointing to one system or one tool, the new or even experienced flyer will expand their flight experience in new directions. My favourite tutorial was the Ka-50 Sending Buddy To Recon (http://www.lockonfiles.com/blog/10/entry-169-ka-50-recon-by-buddy/) With a few key-strokes, you have another tactical option(sending your wingman to scout out targets/threats) and a way to get an excellent view of the battlefield. It has its risks but that is the fun of it.

And finding a tool like Tacview Flight Recorder (http://www.lockonfiles.com/blog/10/entry-38-tools-we-use-tacview-flight-recorder/) can allow you figure out what the heck just happened. Certainly very useful when I have been shot down in my MiG-21 :ohmy:

Certainly the After Action Reports also fulfill this role as the experienced sim-mer tells us how he got into trouble and how he got out of it.


A very good and polished web experience and web-site. Lots of excellent content and a great place to visit.

Take a look for yourself - http://www.mudspike.com/ I have it included on my Favourites Bar.

Thanks to the Mudspike crew.

Another part of the Beach Prep Missions Project (same mission - 3 different aircraft) was also to see if I could measure the usage people get out of the different missions. This would give us a small picture of the DCS flight sim community. So, for the last 2.5 months, I have been tracking the # of downloads per day for these 3 missions to see if there are any patterns.

The Three Missions

The mission is based on the having a beach assault that the aircraft have to support with their firepower. Lots of explosions and targets and was well received. They were all uploaded within 3 weeks in December 2014. And then I started to measure the daily downloads from the DCS User files

Reflections on Beach Prep: http://www.lockonfiles.com/blog/10/entry-172-beach-prep-missions-lessons-learned/

Download Ka-50 Beach Prep Mission - http://www.lockonfiles.com/files/file/2961-ka-50-beach-prep-sp-mission/

Download A-10C Beach Prep Mission - http://www.lockonfiles.com/files/file/2967-a-10c-beach-prep-sp-mission/

Download Su-25T Beach Prep Mission - http://www.lockonfiles.com/files/file/2978-su-25t-beach-prep-sp-mission/

Raw Download Data


As you can see from the raw download data, the A-10C started the data-collecting period with about twice as much community interest as the other aircraft (Russian Ka-50 and Su-25T). This is carried over to the more direct comparison below - all missions starting from zero after the first flush of interest.

Download Since Day Zero


Here you can see that the interest in the A-10C sim-flyers remains high. The extra American interest probably accounts for the A-10C dominance but I was surprised by the mid-range interest in the Su-25T above the Ka-50.

But upon reflection there are reasons for the higher Su-25T interest: It is free; it is a regular airplane, and the Ka-50 has a somewhat steeper learning curve for basic handling.

On a personal note, I have always enjoyed the Su-25T's handling - it is not more agile the A-10C for example, but I can feel its response very well and I can feel the plane in the world much better. This was also the case with the Black Shark Ka-50 after I had learned to handle it properly.

Daily Usage - Days of the Week

The last set of data and the most interesting was to see downloads by the days of the week. Going into this project and from my regular usage of games, I expected more downloads on the week end little variance.


But I was surprised by the sustained interest across the week by the A-10C. Having a larger A-10C community using the DCS User Files system probably accounts for that.

And the other piece is that there appears to be a spike on Friday by all users to the same level. I suspect that Friday is used to look through the content data-base and downloaded for playing later in the weekend.


It was a fun exercise that gave a bigger picture of the DCS community. It also allows us to reflect on how and when we fly.

There is always a search for content. I have created many missions for others and they are appreciated. But one interesting method of creating good and fast content is converting a mission or campaign for one plane to another aircraft.

One campaign

Dirty Rotten Flieger a,k.a. JustinCWood had that bright idea. He converted the MiG-29 campaign "Over the Hump" from the Mig-29 to a MiG-21bis. As per his notes: he swapped out the modern planes and reduced the missile loads to equalize the firepower.

"The missions are perfect length for MiG-21 with drop tanks. Just take off and fly 90% till your flight catches up . This way they will not spend all their fuel on afterburner catching up to you."

You can download this MiG-21bis updated campaign "Over the Hump" http://www.digitalco...n/files/895430/

MiG-21bis Forum discussion - http://forums.eagle....ad.php?t=138720

Campaign Forum discussion - http://forums.eagle....ad.php?t=131424

Kudos and good thinking.

A mission

The idea was also done by Angst who uploaded the Mig-29 GCI mission modified for use with the Mig-21.


Lessons from My Conversions

In the past I have taken the older Lockon A-10A mission-packs I completed and then used them for the basis of Su-25T mission-packs. The Su-25T were carrying out the same tasks but had different tools than the A-10A. The missions had to be amended and tweaked but it was fun.

Recently, at the request of Lockonfiles user Freak, I created a full beach assault mission for the Black Shark Ka-50. I then turned it into a full project with conversions first to the A-10C and then the Su-25T.

What I learned from that project is that conversion can be a fun process. But there is a difference between something you do for a bit of flying fun and something you offer up to other flight-simmers. When I did the A-10C version, it received a negative and detailed response - that would be called play-testing.

I had assumed too much about the A-10C from the success of the Ka-50. Sure, both aircraft destroyed things, but the much more static Ka-50 had a much higher level of information feed-back than the A-10C. Much of the corrections were about connecting the A-10C to action/results on the ground.

See the discussions about that process and lessons learned

Mission Atmosphere - http://www.lockonfiles.com/blog/10/entry-167-atmosphere-ka-50-beach-prep-mission/

Reflections on this Project http://www.lockonfiles.com/blog/10/entry-172-beach-prep-missions-lessons-learned/

Ka-50 Beach Prep Mission - http://www.lockonfiles.com/files/file/2961-ka-50-beach-prep-sp-mission/

A-10C Beach Prep Mission - http://www.lockonfiles.com/files/file/2967-a-10c-beach-prep-sp-mission/

Su-25T Beach Prep Mission - http://www.lockonfiles.com/files/file/2978-su-25t-beach-prep-sp-mission/


So, keep an eye out for interesting missions in other aircraft. If those aircraft do the same category of air-task, it would be a chance to swap in your preferred aircraft and have some fun. And maybe provide a bit of content for the community

I am currently working on transferring some Su-25T Lockon mission-packs from FlamingCliffs 1.12 to the DCS World package. More content, yaa!!

My MiG-21bis was lifting up and it was time to pull in the the landing gears.

I began to Hit G Hit G Hit G - Uhh, where's the sound telling me that gears are up and we are ready to rock.

Ok, maybe I should look at the manual. When all else fails, read the manual :)

Gear Basics

The MiG-21-bis system is not a auto-magical one. It is connected with extra buttons and switches to prevent the stupid from happening. The gear actually has three positions - Locked / unlocked / Neutral position

We are used to electrical actuators and activators but like other 2nd generation fighters the MiG-21bis system uses mixtures of of electrical, compressed air and hydraulics systems. And for landing gears, you are going to have mixed systems


Find the Gear Handle Fixator and flip it up (R-Shift - G) - this unlocks the Gear Handle (which starts in the Neutral position)



Right-Click on the Red Gear Handle to finally retract the Landing Gears - You should hear some thumps indicating they have been retracted. There is also the Gear Lights Panel


And finally you have to set the Gear Handle to the starting Neutral position - this is so that the compressed air will not be used up. It is also used for things like drag chutes and brakes to try and stop this thing when you land.


It was not easy to remember all the key-stroke variants for up/down/neutral and locked/unlocked, but after doing it in the cockpit, it was much clearer and natural to get it right.

Of course, I had to test the limits of this system. I do not know if the Leatherneck Simulations designers had the full measure of intelligence to design all the limits. But I was going to use my stupidity to test the gears.

Step 1 - Lift the Gear Restraint

Step 2 - Move the Landing Gear up to the top position (gear up)

Step 3 - Hear the gear doors open to let gear inside the air-frame

Step 4 - KRUNK!

Step 5 - Hit F2 to survey the failure - see below

Step 6 - $$$$


So, it means you really have to go that extra step of stupidity to make it NOT work.

Overall, I found it best to use the cockpit buttons directly and forget the key short-cuts. There's lots of buttons but it works well.

With the A-10C, I have a near total HOTAS solution but do not mind using a keyboard short-cut - with so many buttons in the A-10C cockpit, a button is a button.

Fun stuff

While working through learning about the MiG-21bis, I spent a lot of time on the DCS LeatherNeck forums. Someone mentioned a dynamic campaign that Mbot had created. Checked out his Guardians of the Caucasus


MBot Gets It Done - In a reasonable Fashion



Link to Thread - http://forums.eagle.ru/showthread.php?t=136618

It is a mission that contains code to create the next mission. The mission types are interceptions - MBot chose such a narrow focus because it simplified much of the mission setup. And it is the main historical function of the MiG-21bis. The background is a full scale war in the 1980's. Bonus feature (of many) is that it uses the aircraft and weapons of that era.

After each mission, you use the Radio Comms Menu to create the next mission.

I downloaded it, modded a MissionScript Lua file (which you likely have to do after each DCS update). and started it up, Looks good.

My skill set is not complete with the MiG-21bis - currently have bombing, rockets, radar, missile launching. It's a wider set of skills needed and I still have weaknesses - actual interception experience, RWR, getting out of sheds, and countermeasures.

Great work, MBot !!

Content Question

For the Lockon series, the big question has always been how much content can be produced outside of the multi-player on-line stuff.

There is a poll http://www.lockonfiles.com/topic/40190-rate-dcsw/ that rates the DCS 1.xx experience. I had always thought that great work was done on the planes and systems - but I reduced my vote by a few points because of the lack of regular content. It just gets used up too fast. As someone who had made 120+ missions for the Lockon, I just know that there never was enough.

As a long-time Lockon fan and the Falcon 4.0, I had seen many debates about dynamic campaign. The Falcon 4.0 was the standard but was so expensive to program and took forever to finally get right. I appreciated the MBot's narrow focus of the Interceptor mission for the MiG-21bis. Limited variables gives better control.

In many ways I see the problem with creating a Falcon 4.0 dynamic campaign covering a whole front. Ground AI is hard to test, lots of units will bog down a CPU, and will take a long time (too long) to get right.

DCS tries to bridge that content gap with Create Fast Mission and Staged Campaigns - And now supported Campaign DLC - they work Ok but... If a lone programmer can do a narrow focused mission generator, maybe it's time Eagle Dynamics took a look at doing that. Without feature creep, they might have something there.

First Interception Kill

So, of course, I down-loaded the campaign mission and started the first mission. I'm still on a learning curve - starting with trying to get out of the hangar shed. I think its 80% power and braking left or right. But I need practice.

So I started up, the shed opens, and I am struggling to get out the door and not get stuck in the grass. The AI has a section of Russian soldiers walking past (for atmosphere) but one of them got stuck in front of me. And then it got ugly.


Oh, well. He got Deaded when I ran over him.

I WILL NOT be a Hero of the Soviet Union; that's for sure. Will need to practice my "Getting out of Sheds" skill

Anyway, great to have such a good piece of work from MBot - Thanks again !

EXTERIOR SCENE: A dirigible over the darkest depths of Africa.

INTERIOR: An over-dressed Englishman is seated in front of a large mechanical contraption peering into a scope surrounded by various large dials.

PIPPINGTON (Looking into scope): Boynton! Come Quick! I have connected our digital magnetoscope, or as the Frenchies call it, an ordinator, to that interwebs net-thing. Hold our dirigible steady - do not want to lose the cable out the window.

BOYNTON: Dratted difficult thing to do. Seems the dirigible has a mind of its own. Blast it all! [Continues adjusting large levers] Cheerio! It's steady and ship-shape. What have you got there?

PIPPINGTON: It seems that there is a place in the Ether called Steam with valves and everything. Seems right up our alley. You can see through the web-pipes that there is a place called DCS World with all sorts of pictures and guides. They seem to be for vehicles that are heavier than air!

BOYNTON: {Monocle pops out] POPPYCOCK! Heavier than air! Again, poppycock! Things won't fly. No doubt it is a trick by the dratted HUN!

PIPPINGTON: Yes, I will check further into the Guides to see what the deuce - pardon my language - is going on with these aircrafts.


Steam Guides

I was down-loading the FSX Steam version and decided to take a look at the DCS Community content. It consists of screenshots. artwork, and guides.

I took a look at the guides section https://steamcommunity.com/app/223750/guides

and saw a good number of beginning tutorials and quick lessons.

Pretty good videos are linked and the guides cover a lot of the newbie needs.

In the past I had converted a few of my blog entries to quick guides.

Sending Wingman to collect data - http://www.lockonfiles.com/blog/10/entry-169-ka-50-recon-by-buddy/

and you can check out theSteam version - http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=358990205

Very organized and that organization is built into the guide system.

I'm thinking of putting up more small guides - NDB in Ka-50 and Ka-50 for MP Flares, maybe something on MiG-21 bombing that I'm starting to master.

A pretty good resource for beginning players and a centralized place to send beginners to. And there's lots of good screenshots to see as well.

Back at the Dirigible

PIPPINGTON: Damn my eyes. There appears to be something truly remarkable going on here. Help and guidance. We ought to investigate further.

BOYNTON: Yes, I suppose [Pulls out a pocket watch from his waist-coat] Time for tea. We are having a cheese fondue this evening. Very continental.

PIPPINGTON: Open flame and pointed metal skewers. Sounds like smashing fun. What could go wrong?

I am starting on the learning curve for the MiG-21bis and, yes there are a lot of buttons. It is not like the A-10C button-fest which is like running multiple Windows programs. Systems need to be powered up, then those systems need to be authorized for safety's sake. Then you need to choose the right options by hitting more switches. There are no short-cuts.

Too Many Buttons

So, short-cuts were discussed in a DCS Steam thread. There were too many keys to get the landing gear down and too many to do many other functions, There were two sides to the debate:

  • That's how the MiG works - separate keystrokes to duplicate what actually goes on in the cockpit
  • This is a simulation with more important things to learn rather than mere button-flipping

I tend to lean towards the former (separate keys) as it does allow you to learn the systems better. But I do commit the sin of Auto-start; especially with all the different aircraft I fly.

My Solution

Someone did mention that they can program the too-many keystrokes into their flight-stick. It steps around the learning process but is not extraordinarily evil.

But then I thought of using Active Pause - but upgraded. Normally it's a long key-stroke combo-->> LeftAlt+This or RightControl+That. An obstacle. So I just put mapped it to one key on my Throttle, In the heat of action, I can stop and get the switches flipped properly.

Sure I'm stopping mid-flight, but I'm learning the plane and its systems.

Ground Attack

I am starting with ground attack as I mainly fly those types of mission with other aircraft. But I am not used to such limited weapons options. The Su-25T, A-10C, and Ka-50 all have weapons that can reliably destroy all targets with some flexibility. But the MiG-21bis can be borderline on a task with the incorrect payload. Still, it is not bad for an interceptor.

Researching further for a list of weapons that might be effective, I came across a very thorough discussion of the ground attack options for the MiG-21bis. See the excellent blog-entry of the blog called:

My Virtual Hangar - http://whmilsimflyer.blogspot.ca/2014/10/dcs-mig-21bis-by-leatherneck.html

Mission Prepped

Nearly finished my first MiG-21bis mission which is an attack against an encampment in the Turkish mountains, There are a few people testing it. I might have to reduce the armour strength of the targets. I might have to also reduce the strength of some enemy fortifications. More testing is needed; might finalize it by this weekend.

I undertook the task to do a beach assault mission. It was to have lots of scripting and events as well as AI units interacting. I then expanded it further to produce three versions - for the Ka-50, A-10C, and the Su-25T. I certainly learned a lot and might as well use that as fodder for another Blog entry.

Types of Aircraft

With the three types of aircraft, I found that the major difference was between the connectedness to the action on the ground. I had done the first beach mission with the Ka-50 and I seemed to get all the information need to gauge mission progress and mission success.

But then when Spectre_USA play-tested the A-10C version, I could see I had been blind to how much the A-10C needed different handling. I had a long list of things to fix and most of it was connecting the A-10C pilot to the action on the ground with messages and flags.

The problem was not so much the A-10C but my relative inexperience made me blind to keeping the A-10C pilot in the loop when ground movement was so dependent on the A-10C


Again a big thank you to Spectre_USA, Besides the blindness mentioned above I also had too much knowledge. Mission progress was too easy for me to track. A new-comer to the mission would likely to be lost. So thanks again.

And I also discovered the truth that sometimes fixing one error made two errors appear. I wanted to add another arrival on the beach, so I changed the activations and triggers. The final flawed result was the event happened before any flags were set. This meant there were no activations.

What play-testing also showed was that the AI can cause a lot of mayhem not only to other units but also to mission goals. The SEAD group I had set up to clear the area of long-range SAMs kept wiping out the mission goals and obstacles that the player would normally have to handle. I had to deal with these idiots behind the scenes - it was not pretty.

Mission Editing

And one final thing taken from this was having a more organized mission structure especially with all the triggers and events that give a varied mission. Place the Mission Starts at the start and detail & comment on each and every flag.

It's been fun

It was fun doing these swap-out ground-attacks where I keep the same mission goals and structures, but swapping in/out the ground-pounder(A-10C, Su-25T, Ka-50.) If I do another of these, I'll start with the A-10C version and then review Spectre_USA's comments to get a good 1st draft of the mission

Next I have a list of projects in folders

  • The back-bone of a MiG-21 campaign (1980 to 1982) but I'm not good enough to test my missions yet
  • I have 3 old Su25T campaigns from Flaming Cliffs that I can transfer across with cut & paste and ALT-TAB - I have transferred one already
  • Finish skinning my wasp skin for the Ka-50 Black Shark
  • Polish off the Su-25T bomb-training mission
  • I had a Black Shark Ka-50 campaign that I did not finish - still stuck in Black Shark Version 1
  • After reading EricJ56's A-10C JTAC Guide http://www.lockonfiles.com/topic/40229-dcs-tactical-guides I remember that I wanted to learn to do JTAC operations and to make a JTAC missions for a possible A-10C campaign.

And other fun stuff

A lot of my graphics work is done for this blog and for the missions I make. My graphics program is Corel's PaintShop Pro X2 which I picked up on sale for $50. I have used it for other tasks over the years but mainly flight simming. This entry just discusses the basics.

My Current Usage

Right now I use my graphics program mainly for my blog entries which have a detailed explanations and detailed pictures of panels and switches. And I also use it for the briefing maps for the missions I make. In the past I have done some texturing on 3D models.



I use Paint Shop Pro for the following:

  • Enhancing screenshots - brightening areas of interest, changing the tone, clearing clutter
  • Re-sizing pics
  • Adding labels and instructions - there are a list of arrows, boxes and lines that highlight buttons, switches, and panels in the cockpit and sometimes on maps and aircraft details. Adding text is essential for this.
  • Making corrections - This is where the excellence of layers comes in. I can put instructions and arrows on different layers and can shift them to do proper and very exact editing. Saved my efforts countless times.

I've done very little skinning except for a project that I started for the Ka-50 with a wasp theme.



I had tried other and previous programs but the bottom-line for any one of them is having layers. Certainly it is standard for the default templates used for skinning but also vital for my instructional pics, The layers can be shifted, disappeared, and modified individually.

If you are looking at buying graphics program, it is the essential feature.

Skins and Skinning

As you can see from this Lockonfiles web-site and the DCS User files, the creation and making of skins is the dominant use of paint programs for flight sim fans.

The base of it is a template issued by the flight sim developer. It is a many-layered Photoshop formatted file (.psd extension) that ordinary users can use. When I imported the Ka-50 into my Paint Shop Pro, it had about 80 layers and I had to do clean-up on it.

After doing my skin painting, I then save a BMP copy that will be used by the DCS engine.

A list of some DCS templates is available - http://www.digitalcombatsimulator.com/en/downloads/misc/

Up until now it has been DCS Eagle Dynamics that produces the templates. But with other 3rd party developers arriving, they are starting to produce their own. But Thomas Weiss has complained that Belsimtek did not finalize an official F-86 skin template though there is SkateZilla's temporary template,

It does take some time to finalize the template. For example in the MiG-21 - they had to do a drastic reduction in polygons and that threw out any templates because the skin attachment points (or vertex) were being amended all the time. Reducing the polygon count (while keeping a very good quality) gives a much greater performance value rather than trying to keep the same skin.

Below is a screenshot of the front half of the P-51 - Layered PSD texture templates of P-51D. It looks jumbled up because the graphics engines can map different sections of the same bitmap to different sections of the aircraft. It saves space on the graphics card when these things are loaded.



PaintShop Pro - This is what I use and I keep using over 5 to 10 years before getting a new version. The latest is version X7 for about $100 but shop around. Using it on my Ka-50 skinning project - thttp://www.lockonfiles.com/blog/10/entry-35-skinning-a-black-shark-part-2/

Microsoft Paint - Actually used this today at work. It's good if you have a screenshot of a window and can high-light items on the screen. I usually paste a screen-shot into Paint and then cut and paste only the most important stuff into an e-mail. No layers.

Adobe Photoshop - The standard for mainstream but very expensive. The most recent version has the user paying for a monthly access to their Creative Cloud. Congratulations, you can now pay a monthly or yearly charge for your graphics needs.

Gimp - "Aren't there any cheap ones or free ones?" This is the first question most people ask for when they find out the price of Photoshop. GIMP is a open-source or to be found at http://www.gimp.org/

Google for GIMP Layers Tutorials - videos and lessons

Whatever you choose, a graphics program is an essential tool.

I had been testing Ka-50 Beach Prep Mission for the Black Shark and remembered that you could send your wingman to collect enemy locations and transmit them to your Black Shark. It is done through a radio data-link and the enemy positions will appear on your Ka-50 ABRIS map system. Unfortunately, that mission had an error in it with the radios - fixed but I had to do some testing.

Simple RECON by Buddy - Sending Wingmen to Get Targets

From the Comms Menu you can send your wingman directly forward of your Ka-50.

  • The direction for the recon is exactly in the direction you are facing. Be careful
  • You are sending them into danger - radar sams are a great danger; the Ka-50 has no radar detector.
  • Your wingman goes low and keeps a low profile.
  • Keep an eye on your Wingman
  • Make sure you call him back in when he gets too close - use Comms or Rejoin command - use [Left-WinKey + Y]
  • You can just use him for short 1km recce trips

    Set up Recon
    • \ [back-slash] Comms Menu
    • F2 - Wingman 2...
    • F5 - Reconnaissance... then choose distance or to a datalink point
    • F1, F2, F3, F4 , F5, F6 - Recon distance 1 km (klick) 2km, etc. 10km is probably too far and too dangerous
    • That triggers the command to your wingman - to 2, recce to 5 km, bearing 275
    • Buddy will respond - 2nd, proceeding to recon scan mode
    • He will then slide down to the ground and fly forward in a low profile - spotting targets and then transmitting them to you
    • On your ABRIS he's likely to be a Red Circle with 2 or 3 in it
    • EKRAN will announce RECEIVE DL TARGET - that's when you turn to your Datalink system

      Datalink Panel is up on the Overhead Panel to the upper left


      • Target Row will flash Vehicle type - the type of target or position identified. Remember the shapes - they'll show up on your ABRIS

        • 1 - Vehicle
        • 2 - SAM or AAA
        • 3 - Other vehicle or position
        • - Ingress This button is used to send points to your wingmen as ingress, steerpoints, or attack points - not used in buddy recons
        • [*]Wingman Row will flash which Wingman sent the data

          [*]Hit SEND/MEM and the ABRIS map should show the location and type of target

          [*]Keep an eye on your Wingman and make sure you call him back in when he gets too close - use Left-WinKey + Y (y for Yo!)

          What You ABRIS Will Look Like After Collecting Data


          Targets can be sent and received by you and your wingman. You can also send a position to your wingman either from pre-set data-points or entered through the Shkval pointer. But that's another topic. One thing that limited the real-life Ka-50 was that it was single-seater. That is very task-heavy option with both flying and targeting. Having other units help makes it easier for the Ka-50 pilot.

          Dialing in on Your Datalink

          On the right-hand side of your cockpit are the datalink dials to set your connection to your flight. Called the PVTz-800 Off-Board Targeting Data Link Mode Panel located on the Wall panel, Forward Section. It manages your flight's data-link connections and send / receive modes.

          The default is good enough for the above data-collection and these are the default settings when you start up your Ka-50 Black Shark


          ID-No. - shows your position in the Ka-50 flight. 1 means you are the Flight Leader - 2 is your Wingman

          DATA - set the comm options - send/receive etc. Useful when sending data; but that's another tutorial altogether

          I once was playing on-line multi-player with other human players. I could see their symbols on my ABRIS and I received targets over the data-link. Had to change my ID No. but it was Great fun!

          The datalink provides you with options and risks - Good Luck !!

Part of the pleasure of flying sims is the activities going on in the world outside of the plane. Not just the plane, but active airports and other aircraft going about their business. The atmosphere makes for a better experience.

Building Atmosphere

There are in fact mods and scripts that provide continuity or ambiance enhancements


The most relevant is Random Air Traffic script (Author: SNAFU) which populates airbases with random ambient air traffic that will take-off and land randomly. It's this sort of stuff that enhances the experiences. Sometimes though, as a mission maker, just have to fake it.

Ka-50 Mission - Beach Prep

A member, called Freak (yikes - internet names sometimes) had requested an amphibious assault. I had drafted up a mission but when I played it, it was so sterile. The first problem was that there was no destruction on the beach - mayhem was needed at the minimum. So I had to make the mayhem almost like it was a movie set-piece.

See the Ka-50 version of the mission http://www.lockonfiles.com/files/file/2961-ka-50-beach-prep-sp-mission/

Choosing the payload and path of the Ka-50 took about 5 minutes. But the longest time was testing the battlefield for interacting. So I had to have two sides set up and start shooting at each other. But they kept killing each other so fast that, by the time the Ka-50 arrived, nothing was happening. Like a director, I had to set up cues and forces so that there was activity. And they kept screwing things up. But I thought the final product looked reasonably busy. I also threw out a fighter screen and opponents that the Player can pick up on their radio.

Next up

I will be testing the A-10C version. In comparison to the Ka-50, the aircraft does not have as much fire-power. So, I will likely have a 4-wing with many more targets and some more SAMs and AAA. One advantage that the A-10C has for atmosphere is a full set of sensors the ping and buzz. I can also plug into the better radio with AWACs and fighter screens. Adds a lot of spice to the flying feeling. The Ka-50 is good for cockpit activities and fun flying but harder to make not so sterile.

Nearing the last section of a requested Su-25T training mission. I had almost completed it previously but lost all my notes.

Also had bought the MiG-21bis - good stuff. Working on some missions (have an idea for a campaign circa 1980) but matching the plane to the proper ground and air assets is a bit of a slog when you are making missions. I also think that Eagle Dynamics and Leatherneck need to get together to, easily, allow more reasonable airframes for different minor countries(Georgia/Abkhazia/Others) for various what-if scenarios.

See you in the skies

Rather than just a mere blurb about another, I thought I would take a deeper look at my buying decisions

Blurb: DCS October Flash Sale!

Friday, 17 October 2014 (70% off)

For just two days (18 to 20 October)

Starts 18.10.14 at 00:00 AM Moscow time and ends on 20.10.14 at 8:00 AM Moscow time


Aircraft Bought



Flaming Cliffs (Stable of standard Lock-on Planes + Su-25T)

Black Shark

Quite frankly, if I expect to play lots of hours in any aircraft, I never had any problem with paying top dollar. We are a niche-product and need to pay at a higher rate. This is why I prefer the digital distribution method that gets more money directly into the producers' pockets.

While box-issued copies have been the gold standard of distribution, that was yesterday. Today, for the PC gamer, it is a wasteland at all shops - especially in North America. The distributors do not want the PC. They want an appliance - like a microwave or dvd player.

One of the best buying experiences I have had has been the Black Shark. Right out of the box, it had no flaws (for me at least) and there was no waiting for the 1st patch to actual start flying it - with no compromises.

But it should not be an automatic buy - see the next session.

Aircraft - not bought

DCS: F-86F Sabre

DCS: Fw 190 D-9 Dora

DCS: UH-1H Huey

DCS: Mi-8MTV2 Magnificent Eight

DCS: P-51D Mustang

DCS: Combined Arms (OK, not even thought to buy this. What the hell is it?)

The reasons I hesitate to buy these are the following:

  • Atmosphere (Sabre, D-9 Dora, P-51D Mustang) - I just don't think I respect the DCS World package without the proper time-period assets (WW2, Korean. 60's & 70's.) If there would be an asset package that goes with these planes, then yes, these are buyable. Currently this DCS World looks jury-rigged and badly patched-together for other time periods.
  • Activities (UH-1H Huey, Mi-8MTV2 Magnificent Eight) - prejudice and a fault of my own. I cannot figure out what to do in these things. Do I want to spend $50 to find out? Maybe a sale is the time to take a chance or a chance to fail.
  • Inside/Outside - For a button-pusher like me, I need a proper connection to the world outside the cockpit. That means sensors, and radars, and interaction. For the WW2 planes, visual dog-fights are the only thing I see working for me. And I would probably have a better experience with IL2 because it's better set-up for that.

DLC (High-Res versions) - not bought

[EDIT: Ooops, since I have already bought Flaming Cliffs 3, I have these planes below]

F-15C for DCS World

A-10A for DCS World

Su-25 for DCS World

For me, these are such borderline cases for me. I would never fly these but $10 each is a good deal for an enthusiast of these aircrafts. But for $3 on sale for dipping into it for some multi-player fun, that's reeeeal good. And $10 is still not bad.

So, these are the decision. And your mileage will very, very, vary - especially if you have a tight budget.

Just a quick entry about the Su25T Training Mission - Dumb Bombs only - no missiles.

I have finished the structure of the training modules in the mission session. After the Intro. these will show up on the Radio Comms... F10. Other menu

  1. Intro (complete)
  2. Shkval TV sensor (nearly done)
  3. More Bombing Instruction (half-done)
  4. CCRP Bombing (half-done)
  5. Trimming and Autopilot (complete)
  6. Quick Tips (complete)

I have decided to add a bonus mission objective after you have done all the modules. You will have to destroy a ship and an AAA Shilka-23 protecting the ship using Dumb Bombs only - no missiles. The targets are at random locations along the coast. You will need to search at way-points.

There is also a menu option for starting the bonus mission objective right away - if you are re-starting.

I also still have to create and add pics of the necessary cockpit instruments and panels. These will be shown in the Briefing maps - accessible at any time in-mission.

This mission is the base for teaching other weapon systems. And some modules will be re-used: Shkval TV sensor, Trimming and Autopilot, and Quick Tips.

A lot of thinking went into what was left in - and even more, what was left out.

There were a few requests to some missions in a blog entry. One for some Su-25T weapons run-throughs and one for an amphibious assault - http://www.lockonfiles.com/blog/10/entry-158-mission-requests-taken-ground-pounders/.

This would go along with the work I was doing to transfer a Su-25T Flaming Cliffs MissionPack to DCS World

Su-25T Training Missions

Thomas wanted some training missions focused only basic weaponry. Just a run-through of the basic procedures with an interesting but not too difficult mission.

I started with the FAB-500 bombs and set up a mission. I tried to get the cockpit high-lighting to show key features. But I realized later that because the Su-25T was not clickable, it could not work. D'oh.

The pacing of instruction was difficult as there are always activities in and outside the cockpit. Because of that, I decided to have repeatable modules to be started with the Radio Comms menu. For the FAB-500 there are four modules - intro, CCIP basics, Shkval use in bombing, quick tips, and maybe CCRP bombing.

Quick tips: After your bomb-drop, hit F6 to follow your bomb down. Or jumping to your wingman's plane when you run out of bombs.

Still have to get the modules debugged so that they are re-doable, interruptable, and cancellable. Don't know if I can get all three done

Missions Transfer

I opened the Flaming Cliffs mission from my Follow Through mission-pack. And then with both DCS and the Flaming Cliffs Mission Editors open, I cut and paste the text between the two versions. I didn't try to copy the units but was able to quickly place units and paths onto the new map that mapped directly to the old mission. Transferred about 6 or 7 missions.

I will be testing the 1st mission tonight.

Amphibious Assault

Another request was for a beach invasion or assault. I wanted a deeper look for a better atmosphere. So I'm creating 3 missions for the Ka-50: preparation, unit support as the troops move in-land, and interdiction of counter-attacking forces.

So far, I have set up the first mission for the attack preparation in the pre-morning light. And I set the ships down and the beach defences. But my big problem is the troops not killing each other before they are targeted by the Player Ka-50. And as the attack is in the near-dark, I had to provide flare-bombs. Been through two play-tests and have a list of things to be done.

The first mission-set will be done for the Ka-50 but then I'll do the A-10C after that. They will have slightly different tasks. Looking forward to it.. The next mission I will use a script to have riffle-men walking off the beach and calling down strikes from the support aircraft..


Finished setting up some missions for test-flying. So, time to stop writing and get flying.

Picked up the Mig21-bis. Saw the cockpit and said, "Yummy, I gotta have this." Even though I prefer ground-pounding with the Su-25T, Ka-50, and A10C, it was difficult to pass on this. So, I didn't.

Logged into my DCS account and ordered it & downloaded the 500MB module.





Some Thoughts

As I started the tutorials, I realized how much I used the HUDs in the so-called out-of-date Ka-50 and Su-25T aircrafts. The Mig-21bis is all dials so far. I have printed out the Cockpit diagrams from the high-quality PDF Manual(good job). And I'll be working my way through them and all the tutorials. But I now appreciatie all the information(especially height and speed) that an advanced HUD brings to the flight. Dials, dials dials.

The other aircraft have lots of HUD info but sometimes climbing and speed and altitude gets too abstract. I listen more to my engine and look forward to just flying the thing. The Tutorials were Ok but needed to be tweaked for extended comment times and showing panels and dials more.

Failed tutorial - I found the engine start-up tutorial to be bad. The pace was too fast(my eye-rolling did not help) and the comments were totally off-base and pointless. I usually auto-start but I spent bucks for this and my first impression is.... fail. Yes, it can be tiresome if you've started up countless times during testing, but this was....not there yet. Good work on the other tutorials and I really appreciate all the excellent work done elsewhere. The love is there for the plane and the atmosphere. I liked the work put into the navigation system.

Inside and outside

Most of my flying time is occupied with stuff going on outside the cockpit - targets to find, targets to destroy, goals to achieve. But with this I think I'll probably not go as deep and just enjoy flying about. And I'm likely to try out different skins. As a mission maker, I have to keep things vanilla. Looking forward to all the shininess that this plane can provide.

Good stuff

I have transferred over about 6 or 7 missions for the Su-25T from Flaming Cliffs 1.12 to DCS World. But that's going to take a lot of testing and tweaking until it works out correctly. So as a switch from that, I am going to make some other missions for the other ground-pounders (A-10C, Su-25 maybe, and Ka-50 Black Shark)

In the end I'm going to have a MissionPack/Campaign completed and maybe more tutorials. The Ka-50 Night Mission will be finished too. And with your suggestions, some interesting missions.

So, list any ideas you have for single-player missions down below (besides engine start-up tutorials)

Night-time missions were near impossible as the Shkval Target Designator can barely pick up targets for missiles. When looking through the new options with the Mission Editor, I came across illuminating bombs(LUU-2) option. After testing, they're good enough for night missions for the night-blind Ka-50 Black Shark.

Elements Needed To Command Flare-Bombs from Allied Ground Unit

Dummy Unit - pretending to launch the flares - I usually name these as Observation Posts. They are set as invisible and overlook the target area to simulate the fiction of the ground unit launching flares. My testing mission uses OP23.

Zone(s) - The Mission Editor has circular zones to be used for the Flare launching sites. I use zones that have a radius of 20 metres wide and I have figured out how to use multiple target zones. Place the zone where the possible targets for the Ka-50 are.

Triggers and Starting set up - All of this is done through triggers and the Communications Menu.

You enter a new trigger on the TRIGGER LIST.

You can use a MISSION START function but I prefer to use ONCE with a zone trigger . Usually at mission start-up there's too much going on. I want the player to concentrate on getting up and sorting out their trim.

When OP23 is triggered, 2 items are inserted onto the radio comms menu.

TRIGGER>> ONCE(SETUP-OP23, No Event) // comment - name of the trigger

CONDITIONS>> UNIT INSIDE ZONE(MyBlackSharkPilot, OP23-TriggerZONE) // player flies into zone triggering the setup


> Messages from OP23 stating they are ready.

> RADIO INSERT ITEM(OP23: NORTH Target - light it up, 23, 1) // setting up flag#23 to 1

> RADIO INSERT ITEM(OP23: WEST Target - light it up, 24, 1) // setting up flag#24 to 1

You have set up the conditions for calling down illumination. The Player would call the Radio Comms menu and choose F10 Other. So we then have to set up the next step.

TRIGGER>> SWITCHED CONDITION(OP23-FlareNorthFlag23) // The Player is using the menu, switching Flag23

CONDITIONS>> FLAG IS TRUE (23) // Flag23 has been switched causing this trigger


> FLAG OFF (23) // comment - re-setting the Flag23 for the Radio Item menu

> ILLUMINATING BOMB(NORTH Target Zone, 1200) // Flare-bomb dropped at this location

> Message/sounds from OP23 acknowledging flare has been launched

Then the Flare-bombs are dropped from 1200 metres and you have about 5 minutes per flare-bomb to target the enemy and fire. You should be able to pick up targets in your Shkval TV monitor. And you can spam them

Simulating an Allied Plane Dropping flares [update]

For each time an allied plane, an Su-25A for example, hits a zone, use SWITCHED CONDITION and a flag

You have to use the flags because SWITCHED CONDITION is evaluated each and every second and you do not want to spam a flare-bomb every second

- set up a Target Zone

- set a flag for inside/outside the zone at start


> SET FLAG VALUE(11111,1) // Flag #11111

- Check for switch for outside (as flare-dropping will not likely to be done at mission start)



> UNIT OUTSIDE ZONE(Su-25A-Pilot, TargetZone)

> FLAG EQUALS (11111,0)


> SET FLAG VALUE (11111,1) // this resets everything when you leave the TargetZone

- And then the plane enters the zone



> UNIT INSIDE ZONE(Su-25A-Pilot, TargetZone)

> FLAG EQUALS (11111,1)


> ILLUMINATING BOMB(TargetZone, 1200) // Flare-bomb dropped at centre

> SET FLAG VALUE (11111,0) // reset so you are not spamming flares - the main point of the Flags

> And maybe make a MESSAGE/sound that the flares have been dropped

If you don't want the allied plane to fly directly over the target, you can make the zone much, much larger.

So, just make the flight path fly though the TargetZone and then make a circuit using Advanced Waypoint Actions - Perform Command - Switch Waypoints

Just Dropping Flare-Bombs on A Timer [update]

For the least chance of mix-ups, the most straight-forward method is to drop the flare on a timer.

- Setup



> FLAG OFF(1111) // Flag #11111 this is the flag for switching - starting OFF

> SET FLAG VALUE(2222,20) // Flag #2222 - for the total number of flares - 20x5 min each = 100min; maximum 100

- First Bomb



> TIME MORE(360) // the 1st bomb is dropped after 360 seconds - 6 minutes


> FLAG ON(1111) // Flag #11111 this is the flag for switching - turned ON

> ILLUMINATING BOMB(TargetZone, 1200) // Flare-bomb dropped


- Now Regularly Dropping the Flare Bombs



> TIME SINCE FLAG(1111, 300) // Dropped every 300 seconds - 5 minutes

> FLAG IS MORE(2222,0) // Flag #2222 checks the # of flares left


> FLAG OFF(1111) // Flag #11111 this is the flag for switching - turned OFF

> FLAG ON(1111) // Flag #11111 turned ON again - this flips the Flag for the SWITCHED CONDITION

> FLAG DECREASE(2222,1) // Flag #2222 counts down the # of flares left

> ILLUMINATING BOMB(TargetZone, 1200) // Flare-bomb dropped



Starting by radio command - Add/remove Radio Item and just set FLAG ON(1111) rather than TIME MORE()

Infinite flares(useful for long-running multi-player maps) - just remove all references to the Flag 2222 that is used to count down the # of flare-bombs

Polishing items

- You can also limit the # of flares by setting up an starting Flag for the # of Flares (illuminating bombs) and keep decrementing it until it reaches zero. Flag Set and Flag Decrease are the Actions to use.

- You can also set up frequencies for the OPs on the Radio Items.

There's a higher degree of stress and a bigger learning curve for night-flying but it's fun too.

In testing my earlier A-10C mission, I usually would do all the work of destroying the targets. But whenever I sent off my wingman to a target I had specified, he went some place - almost at random. I had to dig into this if I wanted to get this right and do bigger missions.

Wingmen Basics

Lead Plane + Wingman is the basic set of military aircraft operations. The Lead provides guidance and direction to an attack while the wingman watches for any vulnerabilities that the duo might have and carrries out tasks requested of the Lead.


A step above that is the Flight of 4(Lead(#1), #2, #3, and #4) with 2 sets of wingmen:

In this case this flight is broken down into 2 sets or elements:

1st Element: Lead(#1) and Wingman #2

2nd Element: Wingmen #3 and #4

The 2nd Element can follow the Lead and act as extra wingman. Or even better, the 2nd Element can take on a separate task altogether. If the Flight of 4 are fighters, the 2nd Element (for example) can pich in on the left while the 1st Element

For the A-10C, you can use the 2nd Element on a different target, take out air defences, or to finish off the target the 1st element has already hit.

The Most Important Command

Rejoin Formation

The AI is much better than in previous Eagle Dynamics but you still need to track of your wingman. I prefer to use the Communication menu [ \ ] but the key combo [LWin + Y] will pull your wingman off of whatever

Engage With...

This is the key command for directing your wingman with you SPI - more on it below.


Designating Targets for your Wingman(or Flight or Element)

The TGP is used to set up SPI (pronounced "spee") that your wingmen can respond to.

After the TGP is warmed up and active, search for a target as per the mission - I usually have a waypoint to start with. I flip to the WhiteHOT FLIR and increase the GAIN. And when searching for targets, many people flip between WHOT and BlackHOT(BHOT) to get the best chance to discover targets.

I often use the TADS Screen to know where the TGP is pointing to - I set up a SPI by using the CHINA HAT Forward - LONG (hold it down for 2 seconds)

This makes a SPI that can be seen on the TADS screen

Making sure the TGP is the SOI, I then slew this around to get an exact fix on the target. If the target is moving, I flick TMS FORWARD (short) to toggle between AREA(fixed position) and POINT (moving target)

Broadcasting SPI

Now that I've got an SPI in my system on the Target, I need to let my wingmen know of it. I then hold down the DMS-LEFT LONG to Broadcast the SPI to my wingies.


Telling Buddy to 'Git'er Done'

That's when Engage With... is used.

I just get onto the Comms menu [\] and issue the commands

If the target is an Air Defense, I usually specify:

  • F3 Engage With...
  • Target Type - F4 Engage Air Defenses
  • Weapon Type - F1 Missile... Mavericks have the longest standoff range
  • Attack Heading - F1 Default... The most direct route from where the wingmen currently are

The wingman or element should respond with

Roger, Air Defense Target at your SPI with Missiles

They'll head to that area and starting from that point will search for targets of that type

Using these building blocks will get a lot of the jobs done and will give extra fire-power

I usually like a narrative to a mission - the terrain and objectives usually provide good hooks. So I usually choose the map area first - setting up a campaign in the region of Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, Russia in southern Russia. I don't see many missions there. But if you are going to have a fictional conflict, you can place it pretty much anywhere with interesting terrain. The fiction is that there is a larger Russian-American war by proxies of Georgia and other southern Russian regions.

The Mission Itself

Mission: After the town of Chikola was taken by American forces, the remaining enemy Russian forces are making their escape to the west.

Primary Objectives: Track down escaping enemy forces. They are most likely fleeing down a valley west of Chikola heading to Tashly-Tala. Lesken to the north is also a possible refuge for them

Secondary Objective: The escaping forces will be covered by a screen of Shilkas. Destroy the screen.

It is a night mission with no JTAC support

There are 2 versions - one has a Ramp-start and the other a Runway start

Good replayability - maximized the randomness


The waypoints are as follows

WP1: SEARCH STN is set up as a rally point to search from

WP2: S SRCH - Southern path - is one possible direction they may have fled

WP3: C SRCH - Centre Path - is the main path to refuge in Tashly-Tala

WP4: N SRCH - North to Lesken is one possible direction they may have fled

WP5: SRCH END - If the enemy is heading to refuge in Tashly-Tala, WP4 to WP5 is the escape route

For tips to help you get going in the A-10, see my Blog-Entry on Things Learned about the A-10C.

The missions can be downloaded from the following locations:

Lockonfiles.com - Chikola Night Hunt

Eagle Dynamics - A-10C Mission Thread

Users Files(Eagle Dynamics) - download here

Also located at - My Sims Page

The "Making Of" Section

This was really a test-bed for all the questions I had about mission-making.

Things like: how do I set up a CAP (Combat Air Patrol), how do I trigger the radio commands, how do I set up the radio frequencies. That's why making it went on and on and on

I also had to add some tips about Night Starts

Night-starts required that I provide a map to the Beslan airport layout - it's dark out there - and some tips for Ramp Start(also in my blog-entry)

So I've provided an airport layout(in the briefing pics)


And for the Ramp-start

Starting with No Lights at all - without Auto-start

To see inside cockpit - Hit the Emergency Flood Lights - located on the Upper right console, Upper Right on the Lighting Control Panel - right of the Caution Lights Panel and Counter-Measures Panel


Taxi Lights

If Auto-start [R.WIN + HOME] runs correctly, you still need to switch on the Taxi Lights. The Land Taxi Lights are located on the Landing Gear and Flap Control Panel below the Left MFCD. It's a 3-way toggle switch with 3 small nubs on it.


I also provided 2 versions - one has a Ramp-start and the other a Runway start.

I rarely do ramp-starts - it was fun and a bit scary to drive around in the dark.

Glad it's done - just never had the time to dig into night vision stuff

No, it's a Non-Directional Beacon. These beacons are standard navigation devices used at modern airports and used by the Ka-50 Black Shark. Before GPS and the other modern navigational aids, it was an important way to guide planes to airports. But for a Ka-50 in a war zone, it's a good backup to have.

For the Ka-50 it's a backup system to the ABRIS map-view.

NDB Principles and Instruments

It starts with a radio transmitter(Non-Directional Beacon) that broadcasts from a known location on a set frequency at an Airport. On the aircraft there is a device - Automatic Direction Finder (or ADF) (linked to the radio system) that measures the angle to the beacon. Besides airport beacons, the Ka-50 ADF can be used to detect the direction of a broadcast signal such as your wingman's.

The signal emitted by the NDB is received simultaneously by two antennas - one rotating and the othe stationary. The signal from these antennas is then phase compared.

As a result, a signal is created that moves the antenna until the it receives a minimum signal phase to align with the NDB's location (bearing).

On the Ka-50 the rotation is transmitted electrically and rotates the Radio Magnetic Indicator (RMI) needle of the HSI of and the ABRIS HSI to indicate the current NDB bearing:


Getting A Fix

Please note that the Beacon does not provide distance info to the airport

But the NDB-ADF system can also be used to get a fix on your location. Tune into one airport(known location) and note the angle - then tune another airport(known location) and draw lines on your map. As the Ka-50 is a single-pilot aircraft, used in war-zones and possibly suffering damage, your best bet is to just find the nearest airport and set your Ka-50 down. But still a good backup for a damaged aircraft.

NDBs are most commonly used as markers or "locators" for an instrument landing system (ILS) approach or standard approach. NDBs may designate the starting area for an ILS approach or a path to follow for a standard terminal arrival procedure or STAR.

In the Ka-50, the NDB has two consoles that work the system:

On the Right console, there is the Ark-22 Direction Finder. It is the panel where you choose the different radio beacons (airports have 2 beacons – inner and outer)The default settings are functional and ready to go. You can see the ADF Channel Selector Dial with 8 choices(plus 2 ground crew settings).

The other panel – at the centre – behind the Joystick – allows you to choose Inner or Outer beacon for an airport or it chooses automatically - Outer 1st and then switching to the Inner beacon as you approach.


There are 8 radio beacon sets for 8 pre-selected Airports – numbered 1 to 8 displayed - on the Right Window including the Morse code. The Morse code comes in handy when you switch from the COMPASS mode to the ANT mode. You'll hear the beeping Morse code - it's more of system check than having to count the Morse dashes and dots.


Radio Links

I had hoped I could program or choose any Airport by turning on the R-800 radio ADF switch and dialing in a beacon frequency. But the system is not set up for that – the Airports cannot be changed except through hunting through the airports.lua file outside the mission. So if you are flying out of one of the 8 airports listed, the beacons function as they should - otherwise you can use them to calculate fixes.


But flipping the ADF switch on the R-800 radio allows you to find the direction of your wingmen. I sent 2 of my wingmen out on reconnaissance and whenever a wingman responded, the RMI needle would turn in their direction. Pretty cool.

Rampant Speculation Section - DCS Compatability Patch

In prepping through this blog-entry and working with the datalink, the DCS engine is a good start for a very interactive experience. I was on-line the other night on a DCS Black Shark server. We had just finished destroying a target group, when we were given a new target(by bullseye). While I was struggling to calculate the new position(with my ERBL), someone in my flight sent it over the Datalink. It showed up on my ABRIS map and off I went. Awesome.

But my work with DCS:A-10C showed a lot of potential for Forward Air Controllers (FAC) and radio communication.

And the R-828 VHF Radio(currently not functional) will now come into play. In real life it's used with Forward Air Controllers and other ground force units - with 10 preset channels and frequency range of 20 - 60 MHz.

The R-800 also has a Guard channel (like the A-10C) to monitor allied distress signals and we might be able to link ALL airports to the ADF (pure speculation)


Mission Progress Update

Black Shark Mission - I've been doing most of my work on a new one - called Pockets - implementing my own bullseye system(got the idea from an on-line mission). I've also maxxed out the randomness as well - good replayability

A10-C Chikola Night Hunt - Nearing completion - should be out this weekend. Air cover is testing OK. A little more testing for the Radio cammands, hiding units, and adding briefing pics to be done. Maxxed out the randomness as well - good replayability too

Been working on my first thorough DCS: A-10C mission. With maximized randomness and having to test the air cover and radio usage, by repetition alone, I added a few skills to my repertoire. A lot of this was difficult to explain - but much easier to do. It is like flying a software program

- Know WHERE the Focus(SOI) is

- Know WHEN you can use all the different functions - after you've changed focus

Runway Start Routine

Ramp Starts at Night

Starting with No Lights at all - without Auto-start

To see inside cockpit - Hit the Emergency Flood Lights - located on the Upper right console, Upper Right on the Lighting Control Panel - right of the Caution Lights Panel and Counter-Measures Panel


Taxi Lights

If Auto-start [R.WIN + HOME] runs correctly, you still need to switch on the Taxi Lights. The Land Taxi Lights are located on the Landing Gear and Flap Control Panel below the Left MFCD. It's a 3-way toggle switch with 3 small nubs on it.


Counter Measures

Countermeasure Signal Processor (CMSP) Panel - Defensive systems need to be turned on the CM Panel on the Right Console - including the Jammer

  • Flip the Mode Select Dial switch to MANUAL - (3 times) - this starts the show. I once switched it to AUTO, but as soon as I was lit up by a MiG, it started pumping out chaff/flares without any control
  • 4 switches turn on 4 counter-measure Systems
    MWS - Missile Warning System - this detects not just radar missiles but others by analyzing changes in heat signature, and infra-red and ultra-violot analyses. There are scanners in tails and wings.
    JMR - Electronic Countermeasure Jammer - try to jam radar missiles. I use the keyboard Minus sign - easy to remember. The Centre Console will switch from SBY (stand-by) to OPR (operational)
    RWR - Radar Warning Receiver - see the threats - located separately on the Centre Console
    DISP - Chaff and Flare Dispenser. The DISP switch enables the the chaff and flare dispensers - You can also program them by clicking DISP again. I just accept the programs "as is":
    A + B Chaff Only
    C Flares Only
    D + E + F + G Mixed Flares/Chaff
    H + I - One Chaff Set launched at a time


    Setting up the joystick is a top priority and CM are re-mapped to a 4-way switch on my HOTAS joystick
    - But there are actually 5 commands - the final one is turning on the Electronic Jammer - the keyboard Minus sign - easy to remember
    • Activate Flare/Chaff Program (CMS HAT FORWARD) - this starts pumping out Chaff(anti-radar) and Flares(anti-IR)
    • Turn OFF Program (CMS HAT AFT) - Halts current program
    • Change Program A-->B-->C-->D etc. (CMS HAT LEFT)
    • Change Program D-->C-->A-->B etc. (CMS HAT RIGHT)
    • On the Centre Panel - Activate Electronic Jammmers - (CMS PRESS DOWN or Keyboard+Minus) and you see it change from SBY(Standby) to OPR(Operational)

      Setting Up Your TGP and Mavericks

      Arm Weapons and Systems
      Below the Left MFCD - Arming Switches - Master Arm, TGP, Laser, Gun-Pac Ready(though not urgent)


      Setting Up Your TGP and Mavericks

      We first turn ON the Electro-Opticals(TGP and Mavs). On the TADS Screen, select the following OSBs:
      • DSMS | MSL | EO ON - the TGP and Maverick seekers require at least 3 minutes warm-up - you'll see the timer


      When the TGP is warmed up, Click on A-G. The TGP should flash and brighten
      You have three modes - accessed by the Boat Switch on your throttle. I do not have a switch like that, so I remapped them on my keyboard in a row->
      • FLIR - Black-Hot BHOT (BOAT AFT) [ , ] This is IR heat vision - but reversed colours
      • CCD (BOAT CENTRE)[ . ] - normal imaging
      • FLIR - White-Hot WHOT (BOAT FORWARD) re-mapped to [ / ] This is IR heat vision

        External Lights

        Are set in three modes using the Pinky Switch (I've re-mapped them to P+Modifiers)
        • Externals at Default (Pinky FORWARD [L.ALT + P])
        • Externals OFF (Pinky CENTRE [L.SHIFT + P])
        • Externals set as per Lighting Control Panel(LCP) (Pinky AFT [L.CTRL + P]) The LCP is located at the Right console


        AutoPilot - located on the Left Console – middle below the Throttle

        The A-10C does NOT have a route auto-pilot that automatically flies the A10 to a steer-point or along a loaded flight plan. But there are three Modes. Choose before Activating the Autopilot with [A] - These will also show up in the HUD

          [*]Hold PATH [2] – the aircraft will fly its current flight path, represented by the total velocity vector symbol on the HUD. This mode will not engage with a bank angle greater than 10 degrees

          [*]Hold ALT/HDG [3] - This mode will attempt to maintain the barometric altitude and heading of the aircraft. It will not engage with a bank angle greater than 10 degrees.

          [*]Hold BANK/ALTitude [4] - The autopilot will attempt to maintain current bank angle and barometric altitude. I use this for circling in an orbit while searching and setting up an attack.

          Turning on the AutoPilot

          Hit [A] - and if successful, you will hear the Notification Tone for the Low Altitude Autopilot (LAAP) system. It activates best when you are not pulling too hard on the joystick. Any time you move the Joystick, if autopilot mode is engaged, the audio warning "WARNING, AUTOPILOT" sounds. This means you are out of autopilot control.

          When setting up the orbit, I set a climb of 10 degrees(while turning) and then let go of the stick. Then I keep tapping the [A] until I hear the Notification Tone - it takes some practice. Sometimes you can use the ALT/HDG autopilot and then turn/bank and switch on the BANK/ALT Autopilot

          Circling for the Attack Set-up

          You should have a good handle on controlling your TGP and Mavericks. When circling, the key is to have situational awareness – your target will be out of sight a good portion of the time (GIMBAL LIMITS message will appear). After setting up the Autopilot, I usually set the Cockpit View PAnel View [R.CTRL + NUMPAD-Zero] and then swap between Left and Right MFCD during searches and attacks

          See the pics below – they show the orientation cues for on the MFCD. For the TGP - the orientation marker is a small dot - easy to spot when turning the A-10C


          For the Maverick - the large cross is the orientation marker


          The TGP is a much better targeting tool than the Maverick camera with many options and better field of view – the Gimbal Limit message is not usually a problem. The Maverick is more limited

          To get the Maverick to unlock from Gimbal Lock

          - TAP the China Hat AFT [C] (this starts moving the Maverick Camera) and then

          - HOLD the China Hat FORWARD(Long) [V] - the Maverick camera will start to head to the target area at the SPI

          Also look at the TAD on the LEFT MFCD for orientation. If you have slaved the Maverick and TGP to the SPI (see next section), the TAD will show a dashed line when the target is on the TGP or Maverick Sensor.

          Slaving the Mavericks to the TGP

          When I started to learn the DCS version of A-10, I thought it would be much like the Lockon version for the Mavericks. In Lockon everything was clear and there was no Targeting Pod. But frankly, the DCS Maverick camera is lacking visuals. I turned to the TGP and found the tool I needed. FLIR options / (black/white) with good clarity, and high quality zooming makes the A-10C a weapon of the 21st century. Now when I’m circling over the battlefield, it’s the tool to use. I find the targets with the TGP, set the Sensor Point of Interest (SPI) and then link (slave) the Maverick to the SPI.

            [*]Make the HUD the SOI and set up your Mavericks

            [*]On the Maverick MFCD - Change the Slew speed on the Maverick - on the Up Front Display (below the HUD), hit 2 or 3(putting it into a scratch pad) and then click on the SLEW OSB button on the Maverick MFCD This will make target "grabbing" with the Maverick easier

            [*]Switch to the TGP

            [*]First find the targets with the TGP - Use the FLIR - WHITE HOT and BLACK HOT to find targets

            [*]Next fix the TGP with the TMS FWD Short

            [*]Make an SPI (Sensor Point of Interest) with TMS FWD LONG

            [*]Slave all sensors(including the Maverick) to the SPI with ChinaHat FWD LONG

            [*]Switch to the Maverick on the Right MFCD and hit ChinaHat FWD LONG to get it to targets

            [*]Tap TMS FWD SHORT once to catch the target underneath – or SLEW around to grab onto a target - the cross-hairs should jiggle.

            [*]Release/fire the Maverick

            Radio Functions

            I use the Easy radio mode (Comms Menu) - this simplifies who I can talk to. But as a Mission designer, I cannot take any short-cuts that leave the more skilled users out of the mission. So, I tested the Radios as well and learned how to use them (maybe too much)

            3 Radios are available on the A-10

              [*]AM radio VHF1 - 116MHz to 151Mhz - Mic-Switch-FWD but I've re-mapped this to [8]

              [*]FM radio VHF2 - between 30 and 76 MHz - Mic-Switch-AFT [9]. This communicates with JTAC units on the Ground or in the Air.

              [*]AM radio UHF - 225.000 to 399.975 MHz - Mic-Switch-DOWN [0]. This is the Radio that you use to communicate with your own flight. I sometimes set it to BOTH to get the Guard Channel - also known as Air Force common - this receives all the common traffic from other flights. And if an enemy is taking down your fighters, it's good to know

              Practice with the simpler missions - River Raider is the one I'd recommend - and then your skills will build.


I was working on both a Black Shark and a A-10C mission and just had some testing to do. But for the A-10C I had also drafted a blog-entry called - A-10C: Things Learned. That blog-entry was nearly done but as I play(test)ed more, I realized I had more to learn. So I finished the Black Shark mission and have published it.

The Coast-Runners Mission Itself

Georgian-controlled Ochamchira along the coast of north-west Georgia has been over-run by our Russian troops.

The task of the Player and his Ka-50 wingman is to:

1) Destroy escaping Georgian convoys

2) Destroy the Command Bunker at the edge of Meore-Guadwara by putting a few missiles into it

There will be AAA emplacements along the Coast that you will have to watch out for.


Download - here at LockonFiles.com and unzip into the Missions folder

There is also a Mission Thread at the EagleDynamic forums

Eagle Dynamics User-files service has a copy - download here

- an interesting service that I check every day. I'll have to blog about it one day.

(Someone has tried it in BlackShark 1.0.1 and found it works)

Ka-50 Mission Creation

The mission had originally been called "Verify" - with the possibility that some of the fleeing convoys were NOT Georgian but were Russian or allied militia pursuers.

I was going to have flares popup from the convoys and the player would have to identify them before opening fire - with possible blue-on-blue incidents.

But what I found was that the DCS:BlackShark Mission Editor flagging and randomization options were not the full set that I needed. It was lacking some obvious features like OR options. But in working with the new and improved A-10C Mission Editor, I felt it had the full set of features I want - though I do want some better randomization features - see my Blog-Entry

When the patch for the DCS: Black Shark comes out, I will take another crack at the Verify mission.

But with the current mission, I've got a full handle on the randomization and the Player will have varying threats to face.

A-10 Mission Status: Chikola Night Hunt

Some things to be done on it:

  • Finish learning the Radio commands - I had been using the Easy Radio Commands options, but forgot that others had the full difficult features. I need to sort out the frequencies for the fighter cover and learn how to use them myself. First I'll have to re-map some of my controls for the UHF/VHF1/VHF2 channels.
  • Test for both Runway and Ramp Starts - I mission-test with Runway starts. I need to do some time-shifting of enemy activations and slowing/stopping of convoys for Ramp-starts.
  • Fighter cover - nearly got them sorted out. There will be enemy fighters popping up and attacking and I need to call my fighter cover. Until recently they just sort of wandered the skies and I was left alone to be attacked - too fraking exciting! :icon_dizzy: But recently I got my fighters patrolling correctly - just need to get the Mayday commands worked out.
  • The usual miscellaneous stuff - hiding things, checking mission options, grammar, and making breifing pictures.

I like the A-10C: Mission Editor - I just want to make simpler missions but with greater randomization and a good atmosphere the player will enjoy.

I've been working on some A-10C missions and exploring the Mission Editor(ME) and all its options. But in one mission I wanted to maximize the replayability by maximizing the randomness. And to do that I wanted different Enemy Tank Groups to have different paths but have only one show up at mission start.

Flags for A-10

So to randomly choose which Enemy Tank Group would show up, I started looking at the Triggers, Conditions, and Actions in the ME to see what I could find.

What I found was the ACTION called FLAG SET RANDOM VALUE .

Its format is FLAG SET RANDOM VALUE(FLAG#, Lowest-Value, Highest-Value)

All the Flags in the DCS sims are numbers - and you can have as many as you want. Some flags can be set as TRUE or FALSE. Others can be set as numbers 0,1,2,3,4,5...n

EXAMPLE: So I created a MissionStart Trigger - FLAG SET RANDOM VALUE(1, 0, 2)

• So in my example, I am using Flag #1

• The values for Flag #1 are randomly set at mission-start to 0 or 1 or 2


Using the Flag

Now that Flag#1 is set to 0 or 1 or 2, I have to check all possibilities. To check them I use the CONDITIONs:

FLAG is MORE(FLAG#, Value) and


If Flag#1 is set to Zero, it's rather trivial to create a new trigger and check Flag#1


So if FLAG#1 is 0, ReGroup is activated. For the other Flag values, I use CLONE and start working on them.


It gets slightly more complex with other values - to check for FLAG#1 is set at 1, I'd use TWO Conditions




This does give some variability. Then I'd spice things up with other options:

  • Place different screens or layers of Shilka at various locations on the Main route of the mission
  • Randomly kill a member of the Enemy Group. For example: if the enemy group has 2 shilkas and a SAM escorting it, I give a 30% chance the SAM will be destroyed
  • Activate or deactivate various SAMs
  • Set-up friendly and enemy fast-movers with the friendlies out-numbering the enemy(4 F-16s versus 2Mig-29s.) That generates a lot of atmospheric radio chatter, and there's a small chance the fast mover will break though and then it gets very exciting. You can also respawn 2nd or 3rd groups of fast-movers using triggers.

    Revisions to the Mission Editor

    I think there are further things that need to be done by Eagle Dynamics in the DCS engine and Mission Editor

    • Vary the vehicle speed. There should be an option that gives a random plus/minus on the speed of enemy groups. So they are not exactly at the same place at the same time - unless the mission designer wants it that way.
    • There are some random things you can do with flags, but a better solution is to vary the spawn time by using Random Times (in seconds or minutes)
    • Under certain triggered conditions, vary the speed of the enemy group. For example when the A-10 gets too close, increase/decrease the speed of the target convoys. There is already some variability with AI Off/On Triggered Actions, but extra changes in speed would not hurt.
    • Increasing random stuff adds value to the Sim experience with DCS: A-10

For a long time I had meant to learn how to use the fire extinguisher system for the Ka-50 Black Shark. Sadly, I only remember this when I've been hit and my engines are on fire.

The fire extinguisher system of the Ka-50 Black has two bottles of fire suppresant. As seen in the picture below, the system also has warning lights to show where the fires have been detected.


There are 4 systems that are connected to the fire extinguisher system

  • Left Engine
  • APU - Auxiliary Power Unit
  • Right Engine
  • Oil Coolers/ventilation

The engines and APU perform the major power functions as shown in this Power System Discussion. Lots of power, lots of fuel, lots of chances for fire.

When it is up and running, most times the system is set up in Automatic Mode - as shown by the Mode Switch (see diagram)

This means that when a fire is detected in one of the 4 systems, the first bottle of fire suppresant fires automatically. Each fire extinguisher system uses fire retardant contained within a pressurized bottle to flood the desired compartment.

By this time, in real life the mission would be over. You should be getting ready to perform the procedures for a one-engine landing.

But that does not mean that all fires are out - you could still have other fires in the system or the enemy could still be shooting.

If there is a second fire, the 2nd bottle of suppressant has to be activated manually.

Flip the switch-cover, and then switch the Mode to from Automatic to Manual

The key for the Switch Cover is [R.ALT + R.CTRL + R.SHIFT + Z] and for the Switch itself [R.CTRL + R.SHIFT + Z]. But no one is going to remember that - just click in the Cockpit.

When in Manual Mode, you are going to have to spot the Warning light and press the correct button (see picture above)

One more system that will keep you alive -saved my bacon from cooking.