DCS: SSA Mod

Or “Sean’s Strategic Assets Mod” is my pet name for my conversion project… I plan on converting, with original modelers permission, a bunch of ‘Strategic’ aircraft from FS9 AI models. The idea is to build a mod around aircraft which would be based out of the theater of operations, and so would only be seen ‘in flight’. The reason for this is that until I learn the finer details of animation in Blender or 3D Studio, my models will be static, which is fine for the sorts of aircraft I am planning.
The plan is to convert a few ‘samples’, which I can use to send screenshots to the owners of the models, in the hope that they will grant permission for me to distribute their modified models.

Quick-Build Sim

Yesterday I put together Nikolai’s F/A-18 cockpit. The cockpit design was from Luka at Dogfight Boss, which I had modified for a potential customer at work. When the sale didn’t go through we had the prototype laser-cut cockpit laying around, which Nik purchased. Which goes some of the way to explaining why I ended up putting together someone else’s sim…

The Dogfight Boss design is a simple, slot-together kitset, much like the laser-cut dinosaur toys we all had as kids.. 40 minutes after opening up the package of bits I had the first dry-fit of the ‘pit together.

Dry-fit test complete, now to label and disassemble

After disassembly, I laid out all the bits logically, then set about gluing and nailing it all together.
After a good evening’s work it looks quite good. The final step is to roll it all over and secure the floor to the main structure. I’m sure Nik will be happy 🙂

With a splash of paint it will look awesome!

New IO Interface Component

I have been using up recycled interconnect boards from the skip at work, but as that source is quickly running out I thought I should find an available substitute.
I like the idea of using CAT5 cable and connectors for running between my components and IO boards, so I looked for an RJ45 connector which would suit my needs. A quick search on Aliexpress.com came up with these:

I do quite enjoy getting small parcels of goodness from Aliexpress!

For around $3 each, these things allow me to wire 7 IO lines, plus a common to each cable, which in turn runs to my centralised IO.

My first use of these will be on the 737 MIP, when I wire up the remaining buttons, then the long-awaited EFIS Panel, where I hope to design the connector into the panel, as an integral part, allowing for easy removal for maintenance.

Click here to check out this product on Aliexpress

CT4 Forward Air Controller?

With my playing around in DCS, and my love of the FAC mission, I decided to try a conversion of my CT4 model as a working FAC aircraft in DCS.

I had the basic aircraft geometry imported and converted, albeit with a few bugs so I tackled the task of adding weapons to it one night, and the results were surprisingly good!

CT4/FAC over Echo Lake Nevada on a test flight

I was certain that somewhere in the past the idea of a FAC conversion of the CT4 had been floated, which added some sort of legitimacy to my project.. A bit of searching on the ‘net came up with this page at Aviadejavu.ru

1976 Photo of a CT4 FAC test.

Finding this image was a great step, giving some credence to the idea of a FAC CT4. I need to model the pylons, and find the right sized pods to hang under the wings, and we will have a usable FAC platform for our multiplayer missions!

The most recent news on the modding front is that I am running a 30 day trial of 3DStudio Max, which will hopefully give me time to finish the CT4 project at least… And plans are in play to secure the use of 3DS Max for longer… watch this space!

Seeing the Wood, Despite the Multitude of Trees

After a bit of a revelation it occurred to me that for a very long time I have been trying to create a simulation environment in my sims which is almost exactly the same as DCS:World provides. I have been, for a long time, been trying to develop a multi-platform ‘combat’ simulation, using the tools with which I am very familiar.
I found it very interesting that I opted to stay with my known and familiar environment, rather than taking a leap…. In this case I was very ingrained in the development of FS9 content, I was comfortable working in the environment, I could ‘talk’ to the simulation, I understood the way most things worked inside the sim. What I was really after was a complete combat simulation covering air land and sea warfare, with a Tactical Commander function.
DCS:World has always been on my radar, I have ‘played’ around with it over the years, but never anything more than that. Recently though, with my interest in VR, I have been learning more and more about how DCS works, and how I can develop content for it, and make it into the sim I’ve always been looking for!

TACOPS; part of my mission to make a combat sim out of my FS9 based sims 🙂

So. I am now ‘officially’ (as officially as I do…) I have stopped development of TACOPS and pretty much all of my projects around trying to morph FS9 into a combat sim…..
My focus now is on development of content for DCS, focusing on NZ and the Cold War era.
My 737 and Arrow sims will continue, running FS9 and FSX respectively, but wont be trying to be involved in any ‘combat’ mission.

Some DCS Development… and a glance into the future

It is very odd to look back and contemplate all the time and effort I have spent on a project which was merely trying to replicate something which was already around..

So now it’s onward and upward… I can concentrate on using the best software for each of my sims, rather than trying to make the one platform do everything I wanted.

SO, New software plan
– TA-4k Skyhawk will be running DCS:World.
– Piper Arrow will be running FS9 and/or FSX
– Boeing 737 will remain on FS9

That is, until the plan changes again!

DCS Library Development

For many years Military AI Works have produced excellent military scenery, many of which leverage of a series of ‘Object Libraries’ produced by many very talented designers. I have been using these libraries in my projects for a long time, and with my switch to DCS I felt a little lost without the breadth of objects available to “detail” airports with.
So, being the infernal tinkerer that I am, I have cobbled a workflow together which allows me to convert FS9 Object Libraries into DCS ‘mods’. It is a laborious task, with a lot of file editing and hand manipulation of 3d models, but it does work!

MAIW Objects scattered around a P-3 in DCS

While I was converting models I had a small experiment with static aircraft, converted from FS9 models. The P-3 in the picture above is by Jake Burrus, with my retro RNZAF AI paint, and looks quite good in the sim.

These first experiments with bringing my ‘familiar’ FS9 objects into DCS has started me thinking about how I can incorporate some of the design philosophies that have evolved over the years into the DCS world.

The flight line could get ‘interesting’

With a workflow established, and a bit more learning of the lua files which run everything in DCS, I got a little more ambitious and converted HMNZS Canterbury, and have it operating as a working vessel, with a landable helipad..

RNZAF Iroquois landing on HMNZS Canterbury…. a DCS First (I believe)

Change of Sim Philosophy

After the developments in DCS over the past couple of months I have had a significant change in thinking on how I will operate my sims. Up till now I have been working on a single, standardized software install across all my sims, but with the recent DCS developments, and some recent experiences with Orbx scenery in our sims at work, I have had a major rethink on my plan.

With my recent experience in DCS I realized that work I had been doing on my ‘TACOPS’ application was basically trying to replicate what DCS has bulit in.

So. Big decision, but now my 3 main sims will be running *different* software as their primary platform:

  • The Skyhawk will be running DCS:World with the A-4 Community Mod installed as it’s primary Platform.
  • The Arrow will switch to FSX:SE with Orbx NZ:NI and NZ:SI scenery
  • The 737 will continue using FS9, with my mature scenery build.
  • The current F421/Termserver PC will switch over to running DCS:Combined Arms as a JTAC (Joint Terminal Air Controller) for the Skyhawk, while retaining FS9 and FSX to run alongside any of the other sims.

DCS:Combined Arms has been a bit of a revelation; I bought it for the JTAC role, but once I had it installed and running I discovered that I had unwittingly bought the Tank simulator which I have been looking for since the days of ‘Armored Fist’ from Novalogic.

DSC:Combined Arms

Combined Arms allows you to control ground forces in the DCS Digital world, and to assume control of individual vehicles. This means that I can free-roam around the map in a Humvee, driving wherever I like, sight-seeing or designating targets for pilots in the mission.

The tank sim I’ve been looking for…. bought ‘by accident’
The operational possibilities are almost endless…..

This new philosophy means that each sim will be working to it’s own strengths, rather than focusing on interoperability. This does mean that I wont be trying to make the Arrow or 737 be anything other than what they are, and I wont be trying to turn FS9 into a pseudo-combat sim.
The switch to DCS allows me to leverage of a true combat sim, with robust multiplayer, a complex mission scripting system, giving me the ability to build realistic missions for the Skyhawk, and with the former-F421 PC running DCS as well, the mission options are pretty wide ranging.

The Skyhawk will be running both VR and 2D, using the Community A-4 mod, and one of the DCS ‘Panel’ utilities to render a 2d panel on the lower screen in-cockpit.

An example of the A-10C Panel in Icarus

The switch to DCS will finally allow me to have systems operating which have been merely a dream before now. A good example is the RWR display, which Icarus can render on a small monitor which I can mount behind the RWR display in the main panel.