We’ve entered the new year with renewed vigour and a lot of hunger to make 2023 a wonderful year for Heatblur and continue our humble contributions to the wonderful world of flight simulation. This year we’re slated to not only release our first truly next-generation product, the F-4E Phantom II for DCS, but also the F-14 for Microsoft Flight Simulator, AI modules for the A-6 and Draken, and more. It’s going to be a hectic year; and the fairly calm first quarter only begets the rest of the coming storm.
We’re ending the first quarter of this year with another major update for DCS: F-14 and DCS: AJS-37; adding new features and improving both products across the board- but before we jump into that, let’s touch briefly on progress on our major upcoming releases.
Our primary focus in next generation aircraft lies with the F-4E Phantom and the Eurofighter Typhoon- but equally so on the completion of our next generation aircraft framework – which is a complete, holistic and future-proof framework completely written completely from scratch.
This framework serves as the new foundation for all of our future products and has been a concerted, tough two year development effort undertaken concurrently with building the F-4 Phantom. This sort of concurrent development of building new tooling together with a full aircraft has proven to be a considerable challenge, but one which will pay dividends in the future, both for ourselves and our partners. In the short term, it has meant a slightly longer development process for the Phantom; but over the long term it will not only improve our products across the board but also reduce technical debt and maintenance burden- leading to shorter time frames between early access and full completion, as well hopefully a more polished experience from Day 1.
To get Phantom specific, this aircraft is now nearing completion on all major development areas, just as we approach the two-year development mark. Some of the milestones that we’ve passed are the completion of the flight model, radar and weapons systems, all basic avionics and associated systems and much more. The remaining work is mostly in more peripheral features; such as targeting pods and advanced sensors- as well as finalising the first iteration of JESTER v2.
Beyond the aircraft itself, we’re neck-deep in finalising various forms of associated content such as our interactive manual and the customary set of missions. We’re also incredibly proud that together with our wonderful partners at Meteor; we’ve now finished another full-length album for the F-4, which will be released alongside the module- a 9 track monster to enjoy together with the thunder of your J-79’s.
Beyond what you already know and expect, the Phantom will be the first aircraft based on the aforementioned new Heatblur framework. This will combine the past years of accrued Heatblur experience in building high fidelity simulations together with a number of new and exciting features. Examples of these include JESTER v2; a holistic, complete rewrite of our JESTER AI crew system to enable easier extensibility, better agency, more immersive elements and easy porting to other Heatblur or third party aircraft. Other features include a persistent quality and wear system, mass dynamics systems (simulating every movable part of the aircraft as an independent physical object), a completely new, physically accurate simulation of radar, and much more.
A key aspect of this effort is that we want to ensure that our future aircraft push the bar in simulation fidelity, but also that each release has a measure of consistency in featureset and simulation depth – regardless of era or application. Since we’ve got a slate of exciting announced and unannounced products coming this year and the next; we’re super excited to put all of this into practice and ensure that the baseline Heatblur simulation experience is consistent and perpetual.
Image of Different Pilot Options
Stay tuned for separate updates on all future work as we go; especially on the Eurofighter later this year as we begin more overt development updates on this product- as we begin work on higher-level systems. We’re super excited to share more and are incredibly blessed for all of your support and excitement for our ambitious roadmap
Coming next update, we’ve got a slew of new features and major improvements across the board for both the Viggen and F-14. We continue to set our focus towards improving and adding features to both products, both inside and outside of the scope of our early access roadmap. Major elements of this update focus around tuning the F-14A flight model, making the codebase compatible with multi-threaded versions of DCS World, as well as continuing the development of smaller features or graphical enhancements. To delve in-depth;
F-14 FM image
We’ve expended a major flight modelling effort recently to perfect and tune the last parts of the flight model for our F-14. For this update, we’ve focused entirely on the F-14A; the TF-30 powered version of the aircraft. The overall goal of this tuning pass has been to even more closely match published performance data and ensure that the F-14A performs as it did in reality, and to clear the slate before focusing on remaining issues with the F-14B.
The Heatblur F-14A is now even more accurate in how it maintains energy states across the whole flight envelope, meaning more accurate performance while manoeuvring. This has been a long and intricate process, especially with the involved intricacies of the F-14 being a variable geometry aircraft- but we’re finally nearing the finish line on this tuning pass.
We’ve prepared an in-depth deep-dive on the F-14 flight model, our testing suite, our process and how it pertains to the F-14; dive in in a separate article here:
With the flight model tuning process nearing completion, the F-14A flight model is nearly in a fully finished state. The journey has been long, initially focusing on handling qualities with our very dedicated pilot SME, Victory205. We wanted to get those out of the way first to make sure handling was correct, with extra time spent focusing on handling qualities around the boat to ensure a very authentic carrier trapping experience. In the near future we will update the following FM items:
Once the above items are complete, we’ll be satisfied that we’ve achieved the most detailed and accurate F-14 flight model ever created. Knock on wood.
This week we launch Reforger II; the follow-up to the free, included Reforger I campaign for the F-14 Tomcat. This campaign will take place in the Persian Gulf, and concludes the Reforger story. With the completion and launch of this campaign; we end up with a grand total of 66 Singleplayer/Multiplayer, 128 Quickstart, and 4 full campaigns, almost concluding our included content push for the F-14.
We will always endeavour to ensure our modules are rich and bustling with content, and the F-4E, Eurofighter and other aircraft will be no different. Enjoy the trailer below and stay tuned for the downloadable version of Reforger II ahead of the patch-based release.
Primary major focus on the F-14 is currently big ticket items such as the early F-14A, TARPS and the IRIAF F-14 – while the remaining major elements left on the Viggen are the new custom sounds for the RM8 engine and various bugs across the module. The upcoming update will however include a fair bit of more minor requested features and immersive elements, such as adjustable mirrors, the first Heatblur Forge dynamic cockpit elements, removable fuel pylons and static aircraft additions.
Specifically, some of art and visual additions to look out for include:
The first FORGE elements added to the F-14 include only some dynamic elements on the front Pilot’s ACM panel, and as such it’s currently more of a preview rather than a proper addition. We’ll be adding more dynamic elements, and eventually culminate with a full customization system so you’ll be able to select just the way you want your cockpit to setup. A livery and squadron system will also be in place later on so “your jet” will always be persistent and the same.
Enjoy some of these updates to both aircraft as we work towards the next major feature additions. Besides the major aforementioned features; some more minor elements we’ll be working on and integrating into both aircraft include:
While not a noticeable change per se, with the upcoming addition of multithreading to DCS World, a huge and very exciting feature, we’ve undertaken significant development efforts to try to ensure that our modules are fully multithreading compatible.
Eagle Dynamics has made this a fairly smooth process, however since both the AJS-37 Viggen and F-14 Radars and codebases are already multithreaded to some extent, we had to invest significant effort into ensuring compatibility. Hopefully, we’ve covered our bases, but the risk remains high that multithreaded related issues will crop up in both aircraft. Help us out once DCS MT drops and report any strange issues or errors you may find, it’ll help us a ton!
A black eye in every sense of the word; the early F-14A is still not released. Unfortunately our timeline on this feature has shifted significantly due to last years’ difficulties as well as the continued expansion of the RWR technology rewrite.
One major new development is that this feature is now being developed and intended for integration into the DCS platform as a whole. Meaning; our simulation of sound synthesis, the associated sensors and RWR itself will serve as a foundational basis for other RWRs requiring this functionality in DCS World. We’re developing and integrating this freely into DCS World; and hope that it can further the depth and simulation level of our beloved platform for everyones’ benefit.
Needless to say; however; this comes with additional responsibilities in making sure we take yet another step forward in our fidelity and accuracy; and we’ve gone back to the drawing board several times to ensure that we choose the right approach and implementation for a forward looking and extensible implementation.
We’re finally reaching the end of the road on this feature, and with the completion of the APR-36 in the F-4E and the ALR-46 in the F-14A, we’ll be unlocking the long awaited launch of the early F-14A, which will come with some art changes to account for earlier aircraft blocks as well as some limitations in the case of the IRIAF F-14A.
Our apologies for the long wait for the early F-14A, we know that getting this out there means a lot to many of you and we’ll be lighting a fire to get this done.
We love being close to you all; and now it’s time for a big step in that direction! We’ve just launched our new, official Discord channel, where you can get in touch directly with our development team and support staff, network with other Heatblur, DCS and MSFS enthusiasts, and share your love and passion for flight simulation as a whole.
We’d love to have you; so join in and hope to see you there:
Discord invite image/link
There’s plenty we’ve not touched on yet in this update. The J-35 Draken, A-6E Intruder, much of the Eurofighter, and plenty of other progress and additions we’re working on.
Unfortunately, being production bottlenecked last year due to the war and some personal tragedies caused us to slip severely on some of these features. We will be focusing greatly on shipping these over the course of 2023, and make sure that we prioritize them above all else to ensure no further delay. Not only will this year see the launch of another flagship Heatblur title- but also the launch of the long-awaited early -A, AI A-6E and Draken and plenty more.
Stay tuned for separate updates on the above as we slowly shoo the Elephant out of the room.
As always, thank you sincerely for all of your support, excitement, patience, passion and encouragement. We feel blessed and lucky to be where we are, with the roadmap ahead of us, and a community who support and feed us with motivation. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you,