ABOUT DIGITAL COMBAT SIMULATOR (DCS) WORLD
Digital Combat Simulator World (DCS World) is a free to play combat flight simulator. It includes a free Sukhoi Su-25T Frogfoot attack aircraft and TF-51D Mustang, an unarmed training variant of the P-51D Mustang. DCS is expandable through additional modules as well as user-made add-ons and mods. While the Su-25T and TF-51D are free, additional modules (aircraft and maps) developed by both Eagle Dynamics and third party developers are only available by purchase. Upcoming modules include the P-47D Thunderbolt, the F-16C Fighting Falcon, and various other aircraft.
DCS: World is considered one of the foremost combat flight simulators currently available, with its fully simulated aircraft being meticulously created and accurate to their real-life counterparts. Some aircraft, such as the F/A-18C Hornet and A-10C Warthog, have cockpit interaction that is identical to that of the real aircraft.
Eagle Dynamics also produces the official US Military simulator for the A-10C Warthog, which, in that version, is constantly the most modern block upgrade of the A-10C, and is 100% fully featured and completely accurate to the real thing. However, this version of the simulator is not available to the public, being that some components of that simulator are currently classified by the US Government. The current version of the A-10C simulator available for purchase by the public features a block version of the aircraft circa 2005, contrasting the US military version of the simulator, which is constantly updated; seemingly being currently updated to the 2019 version of the aircraft software and feature set.
DCS world traces its lineage directly from the Flanker series of combat flight simulator games. Eagle Dynamics published DCS Worlds' direct predecessor with Ubisoft as Lock On: Modern Air Combat(LOMAC). The aircraft from LOMAC are still available.
The first module (though not until later referred to as a module) added to DCS was DCS: Black Shark (released in 2008) as a stand-alone simulation. Originally it was an add-on for the previous Lock On: Modern Air Combat series, but was deemed necessary to use a different engine.
The second module added to DCS was DCS: A-10C Warthog (2010). Originally released as a stand-alone simulation, but offering multiplayer compatibility with Black Shark, it was one of the first native 64-bit flight simulators.
In 2011, DCS World was launched with concept of plug-in "modules". This allowed using previously stand-alone simulations in same scenario while sharing assets. DCS: A-10C Warthog was made available as plug-in module, while DCS: Black Shark became DCS: Black Shark 2 as part of an upgrade to the simulation.
In October 2015, DCS World was relaunched under the guise of DCS World 1.5 via a free update. 'DCS World 1.5' brought all the current aircraft, ground units, and terrain into the new Eagle Dynamics Graphics Engine (EDGE) featuring DirectX 11.
In November 2015, DCS World 2.0 was released in open alpha format via a free update. 'DCS World 2.0' gained the ability to add new theaters of war, such as the new Nevada Test & Training Range. The Caucasus map was in the process of being updated, and was not yet compatible with DCS 2.0.
In May 2017, DCS World 2.1 was released in early access which includes support for Nevada and Normandy maps and new rendering (deferred shading and physically based rendering, PBR).
In January 2018, DCS World 2.5 was released into open beta testing, which allowed for migration to 2.5 on steam and from 2.2 Open Alpha. It included a more detailed map of the Caucasus region along with a plethora of other changes and additions. The release version of 2.5 was published in April 2018.
DCS World includes mission and campaign editors, online multiplayer, a large inventory of air, land and sea combat units, AI opponents, a mission generator, dynamic weather and seasons, training missions, a replay system, and pilot log book.
The mission editor utilizes Lua support and a campaign editor for user created tasks. This allows users to extend provided missions with content created independently from module publishers, or create their own unique scenarios. Users of DCS World can host their own servers with user-made missions for co-operative and/or adversarial multiplayer missions with or against AI units. Dedicated server support is currently under development and testing.
DCS World includes one free map, which features a large area of the Caucasus region that encompasses much of Georgia – the location of the Russo-Georgian war in 2008, as well as Crimea, the site of a Russian Annexation in 2014, and a portion of Russia's southern border. Additional maps include:
"Nevada Test and Training Range" - A U.S. Air Force training range and location of the Red Flag exercise, which includes Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, Groom Lake Air Force Station, and Tonopah Test Range Airport
"Normandy 1944" - centered around the English Channel, it includes areas of the southern United Kingdom, and Normandy, France during World War II
"Persian Gulf" - centered around the Strait of Hormuz, it includes nearly the entirety of the United Arab Emirates, as well as southern areas of Iran
AIRCRAFT MODELING IN DCS
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The realism of the aircraft simulation varies according to the type of flight model, the level of system modelling, and the style of cockpit.
The following terms and abbreviations used for different models of simulation are from Eagle Dynamics to describe levels of simulation within DCS World and its modules and may not be applicable to other simulations in same way.
AERODYNAMIC FLIGHT MODELS
There are four aerodynamic flight models used in DCS World:
Standard Flight Model (SFM) – A data driven flight model, with some pre-defined scripting for some complex aerodynamic events. As of version 2.5.4, there are no longer any aircraft offered with the SFM.
Advanced Flight Model (AFM/AFM+) – Airflow and edge of envelope simulation, using multiple points of force application and calculation on the relevant flight surfaces. Scripting of complex events is not used. An augmented AFM+ model which includes limited modelling of the fuel and hydraulic system weighting is also included in some aircraft such as the Su-25 and A-10A.
Professional Flight Model (PFM) – An expansion of the AFM, this level of modelling includes data from complex model wind tunnel simulation, a much more detailed and dynamic aircraft model (for example taking into consideration deployed or retracted landing gear, and the effects of deploying them in flight), complex simulation of control surface movements, complex simulation of autopilot actions, and the effects of fluid movements (fuel and hydraulic) on flight dynamics. This level of modelling also includes actual real world aircraft test data where possible.
External Flight Model (EFM) – A subset of the PFM made available for third party developers. It essentially defines all external forces from the PFM, but allows the developers to calculate and apply internal forces (fluid movements, control surfaces, etc.) within their own model.
There are two levels of system modelling in DCS World:
Standard Systems Modeling (SSM): Only cockpit systems essential for flight, navigation, and combat are directly simulated – although the range of systems needed for these can be quite broad. Player control is limited to keyboard, mouse, and joystick/HOTAS controls.
Advanced Systems Modeling (ASM): Cockpit systems are carefully modeled, even if they are not directly related to flight, navigation, or combat. Almost all cockpit controls are functional, allowing the player/pilot to interact with them using mouse, touchscreen, or even certain VR interfaces. This means that for the most part, the aircraft can be controlled via on screen controls and the joystick/HOTAS controls, although keyboard controls are still an option.
3DoF (3 degrees of freedom): A fully simulated three dimensional model of the cockpit, which the player/pilot can rotate the camera to "look around", and control the level of camera zoom. Head tracking hardware such as TrackIR is supported. As of October 2015, following the 1.5 update, there are no longer any models using 3DoF.
6DoF (Six degrees of freedom): A fully simulated three dimensional model of the cockpit is presented, which the player can not only "look around", but move the camera/head freely in three dimensional space. Combined with head tracking hardware, this allows player/pilots to "lean around" the flight stick to see controls on the panel in front of them, crane their head to look over the dash, or turn around and lean around the seat to look behind the plane in flight.