Dan here - today I'm excited to bring to you our latest announcements and news for 2022! I'll be announcing our upcoming MSFS module, as well as teasing 2 more and then discussing development progress on the A-7E for DCS World (plus sharing some previews of the new 3D Model!)
Lets kick things off by talking Microsoft Flight Simulator:
MSFS: Announcing the F6F Hellcat
Mean, rugged & powerful. These 3 simple terms can only begin to describe the beast of a machine that is the US Navy's F6F Hellcat.
The Hellcat is a beautifully designed, carrier-operated fighter that is credited with destroying more enemy aircraft than any other Allied naval aircraft and playing a key role in achieving air superiority over the Pacific for the Allied Forces.
The Hellcat is powered by a monstrous 2,000hp (2,250hp WEP) Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp - an 18 cylinder air-cooled radial engine featuring a 2-stage, 2-speed Supercharger and water injection. The powerplant drives a huge 4m 3-bladed Hamilton Standard Constant-speed propeller.
- Incredibly detailed 3D Modelling & Artwork, with precise & intricate detailing of complex features such as the radial engine, gear bays & wing joints.
- 10+ Historical Liveries, painstakingly detailed & textured
- The authentic roar of the R-2800 Double Wasp Engine - professionally recorded from a real F6F Hellcat by the same production team that recorded our Spitfire sounds.
- Wing-folding, Catapult Launches & Carrier Landing capabilities. Put your flying skills to the ultimate test!
- Detailed simulation of all aircraft systems, including electrical & pneumatic systems.
- Detailed simulation of the R-2800 Double Wasp Engine & it's many cooling systems.
- Automated Flap system
- FlyingIron Tablet UI Integration
- + Much more!
We've cut Grav (GotGravel) loose for this one and given him more coding responsibilities & he has been relishing the work! His work on the aircraft systems is every bit as detailed as his work on the Flight Models. Together Alex & Grav have been making sure every nut, bolt, rivet, lever and switch looks, animates, behaves and reacts just like it should!
With our 3D Modeller having passed on the model to us some time ago, Alex has been hard at work mapping, texturing & animating the model with a matching level of detail. Although it's still only an early work-in-progress, you can see the beautiful detail in his work - from the oil & grime streaks, the smallest decals, to the accurately replicated, imperfect hand-drawn nose art - really brought to life inside MSFS.
As an added bonus, we've purchased an exceptionally high-quality sample pack of F6F recordings, featuring hundreds of samples professionally recorded from a real F6F. There are over 20 different engine recordings alone, recorded from different positions & with varying microphones. When I'm not working on the A-7, I've been building the F6F sound design package in Wwise from the above samples. You can expect exceptional sounds in this module!
Here are some work-in-progress images for you to enjoy :)
DCS World: A-7E Corsair II
The A-7E continues to steam along through development, with many major milestones having being achieved since our last report in November. Today I'll briefly recap some of the milestones achieved in the last few months, discuss where development is focused at the moment and what we are expecting over the next few months.
Avionics & Systems
Development through November & December focused on avionics & weapon systems, with the vast majority now modelled and integrated to various extents. Thanks to some very valuable documentation detailing the inner workings of the code & computer structures of the aircraft, I've been able to simulate avionic systems in great detail, recreating the information & data flow of the real aircraft.
There's far too much work that's gone on to discuss every detail here, but to summarise some of the key systems that have been developed over the last few months include:
- AN/AVQ-7B(V) Heads Up Display - The HUD is now nearing completion, with most functionality integrated. Thanks to the documentation mentioned above, all HUD elements have been sized, placed and programmed exactly as per their real world counterparts. The HUD uses a slower refresh rate compared to modern aircraft (25x/second). The 7B variant of the HUD includes FLIR integration from the LANA pod for low altitude night-ops.
- Unguided Weapons Delivery - Almost all unguided weapons are now hot & integrated for use, including release parameters
- CCIP Bombing Modes - Developed & integrated
- AG Radar - Mapping modes now integrated, work continues on developing Terrain Avoidance modes, radar ranging modes & integration with slew, aiming & waypoints.
- AN/APN-194(V) Radar Altimeter - Modelled & integrated
- AN/ASN-91(V) Tactical Computer - Development of the tactical computer is well underway, with the tactical computer already powering & feeding information to many other avionics as per the real aircraft. The Tactical Computer is very complex & in many ways the 'heart' of the avionics; therefore work will be ongoing here for some time yet.
- + Waypoints, Navigation, Radio and much more being worked on!
NB: The cockpit images below are using the old 3D model, with the new one still under construction
The Flight Model has been my primary focus of 2022 so far - much work has been devoted to building it up into our Phase 4 Model as previously discussed (ie ready for SME testing).
I'm happy to say that work on the Flight Model has progressed much faster than I anticipated and in just the last few weeks the EFM has improved drastically. It's hard to quantise something like a Flight Model in terms of fidelity and development progress; however if we use data points as a simple measure of fidelity I can say that the EFM has increased in fidelity 40-fold since the new year (40,000%!).
As simple summary of what's been done the last few weeks:
- Overhauled control surfaces to be simulated at a greater fidelity to support the updated FM
- Hugely expanded upon coefficient build-up equations and data tables
- Improved fidelity of Mach affects on aero model
- Speedbrake, Trailing Edge & Leading Edge Flaps Aero models integrated
- Stall/Spin/High-Alpha modelling improved further and refined
- Fuel, Mass, MOI & CG modelling further refined
- + Much much more
With the EFM approaching a stage where it's ready to be handed off to our SME's for flying, I've developed and implemented a unique new way of integrating our Corsair pilots feedback - a EFM Tuning system. It is simply what it sounds like - a way for us and our SME's to tweak, refine and improve the flight model from within the sim and record & report their tweaks back to us. This will allow us to get past any barriers of communication and really help us to get the 'feel' of flying exactly right. Exciting times ahead!
Over the next week or so, I'll be finishing my work on the EFM, finishing up developing debugging & tuning tools and then introducing Grav to the A-7 so he can go through a round of testing & tuning. After that, the A-7 will be passed onto our SME's for testing & tuning while I continue to work on the more advanced cockpit & weapon systems.
In our last update I discussed that our 3D Model was being overhauled - today I can finally show you the extent of that! Our previous 3D Model was lovingly crafted from scratch by Alex, having started working on a model all the way back in 2019. It was great! But ... it still wasn't up to our standard. For the A-7 we wanted the 3D Model to be mind-blowingly detailed, virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.
To that end we made the heart-breaking decision to scrap our existing model and start all over. Completely from scratch! With a new artist joining our team, we knew as soon as we saw his work on the F6F that remaking the model from scratch was the right choice in order for us to put out the best sim possible.
This of course has cost us quite abit of time, but quality must come first. I think that when you see the WIP images below of what our artist has managed to create in just a few WEEKS you will agree that we made the right choice!
Here is a sneak peek of one of our next upcoming MSFS modules - it's currently in the early 3D Model development stage and still has a long way to go. Enjoy!
Aaaaaaannd finally, we have 1 more German aircraft in the hangar under development ;)
Thanks for reading! Stay safe pilots,