DCS: F-14 Development Update – Bounce, Burble and Orbits!

Hey Everyone!

Having just wrapped up work on the major F-14 update launching today; we figured we’d give you a quick rundown of what is included and where our next priorities lie with regards to the F-14. For this update, we’ve focused greatly on improved carrier physics through a new mass dynamics physics engine driving the hook, simulating the carrier burble, as well as other improvements across the jet, bringing the F-14 one step closer to an exit out of Early Access.

With the completion of this testing and shipping cycle for this particular patch, we now turn our attention to more improvements and additions such as JESTER LANTIRN and Forge, as well as the completion and launch of the Forrestal class carriers, which will fill out our next major F-14 release.

New Hook Physics – Mass Dynamics Systems

As part of an ongoing effort to expand and improve our physical modelling (both on the F-14 and on other modules currently in development), we’re developing a brand new engine for mass dynamics. At present, this system allows us to simulate swinging masses in a realistic, physically-driven way; that is to say, masses that can move about their pivoting points in accordance with gravity, G-forces and other applied forces.

One natural application for this technology is our newly-simulated F-14 carrier landing hook, which skips over the deck in improper landing conditions to generate realistic hook-bolter behaviours and pulls up from the flight deck under the strain of the taught arresting cable. The hook can also snap off from its pivot if sufficient energy is applied to it, leading to new (and occasionally hilarious) failures and encouraging a stronger focus on skill and by-the-book landing procedure.

Moving to a more physically “real” solution like this comes with a lot of exciting implications; simply coding masses to move through a predefined range in a predefined time is predictable and inflexible, whereas a physics-based solution allows emergent behaviours in novel and unexpected situations. To see examples of this, feel free to observe the way the extended hook bounces gently on the tarmac when taxiing, or the (greatly improved) behaviour of the turn-and-slip indicator during wild maneuvers.


Carrier Burble

To further improve the simulation of our carrier aviation environment and simulation of the F-14 in carrier operations; we’ve created a new system simulating the aerodynamics of the aircraft carrier burble.

The burble is the name given by navy pilots to the aerodynamic wake aft of an aircraft carrier. Aircraft carriers are massive objects, and their movement impacts the airflow around them. You can think of them as if they were moving mountain ridges. When you approach one from the leeward side, first you get the wave and some lift; then right behind it, you hit a significant downwash. Besides, the carrier top isn’t smooth; there’s the island, multiple antennas, deck equipment, parked aircraft and other structures sticking from the deck, which cause the airflow to be unsteady and turbulent. 

The overall effect is proportional to wind over deck. The faster the aircraft carrier moves or, the stronger wind is, the more pronounced the burble becomes. Typically, the airspeed change from the burble is just a tiny fraction of the wind over deck speed, and the absolute value doesn’t seem to be impressive. However, given how little the margin is and that the burble tries to crash you into the stern, it will add spice to your future traps.


Iceman Orbit and Fly to Waypoint

In order to bridge the gap before we ship JESTER LANTIRN and to make flying RIO in Singleplayer a much more realistic endeavour; we’ve implemented two major new additions to ICEMAN, our Pilot AI. These two features are flying to a waypoint, and orbiting a waypoint. 

You can now tell ICEMAN to fly to a waypoint entered into the navigation system; or any point defined on the F10 map. You can also ask ICEMAN to orbit a waypoint, and can select between a variety of diameter and speed combinations. You can also select right handed or left handed orbits, in order to allow you to effectively use the LANTIRN targeting pod from the rear seat. ICEMAN can fluidly switch from one orbit to another orbit (i.e. moving into a closer orbit) or change direction at any given time if asked.

Iceman was generally built in a stop-gap way, and we will in the future look at more ways to improve and add more functionality to this part of the F-14- especially as we continue development of the A-6 and others, and require much more investment into AI technologies.


JESTER Reporting Improvements

We endeavour to improve JESTER in many areas, especially as we continue to process your feedback on what can be done better and what frustrates those of you flying single seat the most. 

Improving JESTER’s reporting of ongoing combat is one of our highest priorities, and we’re rolling out some initial improvements in this area with this patch. We’ve significantly tweaked how JESTER perceives the threat of missiles and the speed and visual acuity of his detection of missiles. JESTER should now remain far more calm in combat environments with regards to missiles that do not concern your aircraft, especially those fired in ground to ground engagements. Furthermore, JESTER’s visual acuity and speed of detection should now be more realistic.

We will continue to improve JESTER over the coming months across all areas. Some of these include new features (e.g. LANTIRN and Checklist reading), but we also endeavour to improve JESTER’s radar and other competencies.


Night Catapult Signalization

The standard way of launching off of the carrier at night is to flash the aircraft’s lights to signal the carrier crew. This is now implemented in the F-14, and takes the place of the standard salute during daytime.


MAK-79 Bomb Clamp Models – Float begone!

A fix for this major issue has been a long time in the making; and we’re happy to finally have revised our ordnance code and modelled new MAK-79 bomb clamp adapters that will now accurately mount the various pieces of ground ordnance the F-14 can carry to the belly phoenix pylons. Some of the positions and bracing of various bomb combinations have also been adjusted for appropriate spacings.

Autopilot Logic Overhaul

Based on SME feedback; we’ve overhauled our autopilot simulation model and introduced many changes to it’s functionality.

The Altitude Hold feature will now null the rate (like a fighter) instead of trying to return to a set altitude (like a tubeliner would), it will not disengage with lateral stick movement anymore, instead it will disengage if 10lbs longitudinal pressure is applied to the stick (or the resulting equivalent in vertical velocity). If you have Heading Hold selected as well, you will be able to use lateral stick input to steer the aircraft, and when leveling it again, Heading Hold will update its set heading and hold it. Furthermore, if in Heading Hold and if below 5° bank angle, the aircraft will level the autopilot again.

Both Attitude and Altitude Hold will now “grab” easier when engaged at high altitudes (pending some minor updates in the future as we flesh out the AP logic even more to match its behavior precisely for all altitudes).The general roll rate of the aircraft following lateral stick input has been greatly increased. Altitude Hold will now only engage if you are within +/- 200 FPM vertical speed.

Overall this greatly improves the ease of use of the Autopilot and is now as close as possible to how it functioned in real life.

A quick tip: to engage Altitude Hold, simply level your climb or descent at the desired altitude, and when within +/-200 FPM, press the autopilot reference button to engage it. This is how it has been done in real life.

We hope the extensive overhaul of the autopilot will let you enjoy the more relaxed moments of (not) flying the F-14 Tomcat even more.  


Full Changelog

These are just some of the bigger changes shipping with this patch; the full changelog is as follows; 

  • NEW: Hook Physics
    • Added physics based hook model.
    • Hook will skip now if landing too fast.
    • Hook will shear off when arresting with excess kinetic energy.
    • Hook no longer clips through ground. (Spectators and RIO may notice some clipping due to network lag.)
    • Added collision shell to hook. 
    • Hook can now be damaged by gunfire or explosions and detach from the aircraft.
    • Added spark effects and hook break sounds.
  • NEW: Iceman Features
    • Iceman can now orbit a steerpoint or map marker.
      • You can select between a variety of speeds and diameters
      • You can ask Iceman to fly a left or right handed orbit
      • You can smoothly transition between orbit diameters and speeds at any time
    • Iceman can now fly to a steerpoint or map marker.
  • NEW: Carrier Burble Aerodynamics
    • Carriers will now create a burble behind the stern.
    • Burble intensity differs with carrier and wind speeds and needs to be taken into account when landing on the carrier. 
    • When in close, the burble will first generate positive vertical velocity, immediately followed by negative vertical velocity. 
  • NEW: At night, the catapult launch is triggered by turning the exterior lights on (in accordance with manual procedures). Added a new special option which flashes the lights automatically together with the pilot salute.
  • NEW: Added MAK-79 bomb clamp models and revised loadout code. Bombs will now no longer float around the aircraft pylons.
  • NEW: Added 15 Mariana Islands Quickstart missions. Note: Will be available when the Marianas map launches.
  • JESTER reporting improvements: JESTER is now more selective in reporting incoming missiles, and he will ignore the missiles that don’t look like potential threats.
  • Completely rebuilt turn and slip ball indicator physics.
  • Overhauled several aspects of Autopilot behaviour:
    • ALT Hold will now null the rate instead of returning to a set altitude.
    • ALT Hold will now engage only if within +/- 200FPM vertical speed.
    • ALT Hold will not disengage anymore with lateral stick input, but with approx. 10lbs longitudinal pressure (or its equivalent in vertical velocity).
    • HDG Hold will not disengage anymore with lateral stick input. Lateral stick input can now be used for steering in HDG Hold and will set the new heading upon release and leveling. 
    • With HDG Hold engaged and if lateral stick input is released within 5° bank angle the AP will level the aircraft now.
    • Fixed ATT and ALT Hold not engaging properly at higher altitudes.
    • The aircraft will roll smoother now if lateral stick input is used during ATT, ALT and HDG Hold. 
    • If the aircraft is overbanked or overpitched during ALT and/or ATT Hold, ATT Hold should now return the aircraft to 30° pitch and 60° bank.
  • Taught JESTER the importance of breathing: he will turn on his oxygen on startup now.
  • Asking JESTER to input waypoints will no longer break the INS alignment procedure. The option to input the waypoints is disabled during times when it could impact the alignment.
  • Fixed Wing Sweep multi-crew initialization issue. This should solve F-14’s causing collision damage on carriers if spawned in the wrong order due to unswept wings.
  • Fixed slip-ball negative G-load erratic behavior.
  • Fixed radio catapult salute. It now triggers launch.
  • RIO can now use radio catapult salute to trigger a launch, too.
  • Fixed guard receiver in both radios. Guard frequency is now audible and automatically sets guard frequency according to your last selected frequency in the AN/ARC-182: 40.5 FM for 30 – 88 FM, 121.5 AM for 108 – 156 AM, 156.8 FM for 156 – 174 FM and 243 for ranges set between 225 and 400 AM/FM (and will always be 243 AM for the AN/ARC-159).
  • Possible fix for the BDHI TACAN needle bug where it could get stuck pointing down.
  • Fixed RIO aspect switch affecting only DDD, it now affects target tracking, too.
  • Fix TID radar azimuth line flailing around during AWG-9 ground-based tutorial missions.
  • Added radar altimeter test light.
  • Brake Pressure Gauges are now operative.
  • Gun is no longer operable with air source RAM or OFF selected.
  • Extending speedbrakes now interrupts fuel dump (except in the case of combined systems hydraulic failure).
  • Fixed Hydraulics, Flight Controls, Engines and Gear not being repaired.
  • Single-player RIO Total Fuel gauge now shows correct value during INST test.
  • Fixed hydraulic transfer pump operation – pressure drop to approximately 2,400 to 2,600 psi in the inoperative system is now simulated.
  • Fuel transfer switch now causes engines to correctly draw fuel from forward or aft tanks.
  • Fixed multi-crew synchronisation of the Yaw String.
  • Fixed multi-crew synchronisation of the Wing Sweep indicator.
  • Fixed multi-crew synchronisation of the Wing Sweep Emergency lever and its cover.
  • Fixed multi-crew synchronisation of the Gear and Hook system. Now working from RIO’s perspective:
    • Nosewheel Steering Indicator Light
    • Wheels Warning flashing light
    • Brake lights
    • Landing Gear Indicator
    • Speedbrake Indicator
    • Gear handle emergency position
    • Hook handle emergency position
    • Nose Strut Switch
  • Fixed bug where RIO low fuel warning light would never turn off in multiplayer.
  • Fixed syncables bug where master INST test wouldn’t register on RIO devices.
  • Fixed syncables bug where master LTS test wouldn’t register on RIO devices.
  • Fixed RIO caution lights for low oxygen and low fuel not showing in multiplayer.
  • Fixed doubled up tow bar latch geometry.
  • Towbar latches are now stowed.
  • Added holes for towbar latches.
  • Fixed gap in gear doors on right side.
  • Fixed broken normals and UVs on the right side gear door.
  • Fixed missing afterburner texture planes in F-14A-135GR.
  • Added missing VID stencil text to RIO DDD Panel.
  • Fixed an issue where another aircraft landing on the carrier where your F14 is parked could trigger a landing-log event for your aircraft.
  • Fixed an issue where landing on a carrier within one minute of starting a mission would fail to generate a landing-log.
  • Fixed a potential CTD if pilot and RIO spawned in sequence and landed on the carrier within one minute.
  • Gear extension and Speedbrake sounds are now audible for the RIO in multi-crew.
  • Added refuel probe turbulence sounds.
  • Corrected a bug which caused some duplication of canopy-opening sound effects.
  • Increased AIM-54 and AIM-7 RCS.
  • Added BDU-45 and BDU-45B practice bombs to loadouts.
  • Fix for CATM being launchable (previously DCS used to ignore launch API on these).
  • Adjusted BDU-33 and SUU-25 attach position on BRU-42 forwards slightly to match lug holes.
  • Added bindings for VR reset base, spyglass zoom and zoom.
  • Fixed Campaign OP Reforger Mission 5.
  • Updated Cage the Bear Campaign (thank you Kaba!):
    • Updated all missions to 2.7 weather (clouds!).
    • Updated CN localisation. (Thank you Alphabet_Ghost!)
    • Corrected mission 5 carrier frequency.
    • Corrected mission 5 allied F14 liveries.
    • Adjusted mission 8 divert airfield trigger – should now activate no matter which spot you stop at.
  • Fixed Carrier TACAN in Syria Quickstart Recovery Missions.

As noted in the lead-in, we’re now continuing work on the next major update to the F-14, focused greatly on further aircraft improvements, changes to the AIM-54 and further feature additions such as JESTER LANTIRN.  This is all wrapped in the major task that is completing the final Forrestal class art overhaul and releasing the first version of that to you all.  Stay tuned for more updates on these items soon as we blaze ahead and start hitting Early Access completion milestones!

We greatly hope you’ll enjoy experiencing this latest update to the F-14. Thank you as always for your amazing support.


Team Heatblur