Get to grips with an iconic aircraft
At first sight the A-10C Thunderbolt II might seem like an odd choice for a flight simulator.
It's inelegant in form and function (it's commonly known as the Warthog) compared with exciting fighters such as the F-22 Raptor or Su-27. But the Warthog is curiously charismatic and it gave game maker Eagle Dynamics the opportunity for realism and depth.
And what depth. Eagle Dynamics has raised the bar again for realism in flight simulators: DCS A-10C is detailed beyond all expectations. We had been impressed with previous releases Ka-50 Black Shark and Flaming Cliffs 2 but this is a whole new world.
What you get is a cockpit of a military jet where just about every button and switch can be operated using the mouse, and the systems work as they do in real life. There's even a control to adjust the height of the seat, which affects the view out of the cockpit and the Head-up Display.
The previous incarnation of the Warthog, the A-10A, was rather rough and ready: targeting was done by eye for most weapons, the only exception being the Maverick missile that used a TV screen in the cockpit.
The A-10C has a completely new cockpit with two multifunction displays and better targeting sensors all connected to other aircraft and forces in the area. The virtual cockpit is very detailed and looks great even when zooming in on a small section.
The cost of simulating this more advanced aircraft is that there is a lot more to learn. Black Shark's manual was detailed at 383 pages but the A-10C manual is 670 pages long, complete with descriptions of the aircraft's weapons and checklists for just about any conceivable situation.
The controls are also complicated. It uses a system known as ‘Hand on throttle and stick' or HOTAS. This enables the pilot to perform most of his duties without taking his hands off the primary controls. It is why the throttle and stick are covered with buttons and in the real world it takes years to learn.
If your joystick doesn't have all the buttons they are simulated on the keyboard, but several controls have up to five different functions depending on what you're doing. Targeting and firing a Maverick missile (assuming all the various systems are already switched on) takes about 10 steps.
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Even if you don't enjoy combat there are rewards to be had in mastering the navigation system and tricky in-flight refuelling
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