Posted in: FSX, Reviews

Review: VRS F/A-18E Superbug FSX

VRS have created a superb tactical multi-role fighter aircraft for FSX, building on their FS2004 model and in their word, supercharged the FS9 version with updated graphics.  It certainly shows, visually the VRS F/A18-E is an absolutely beautiful creation.

Once you get beyond the learning curve, and have read the 350++ page manual including the 90 page tutorial it becomes relatively easy to fly.  It handles extremely well, just a touch of the controls at 600KIAS and you are off into the vast unknown.

This is a stunning version of a very fast hi-tech fighting machine, and I could only access less than 10% of its complexities in this review.  If you like fast light jets, with no passengers, infinite tolerance to g-forces, complex instruments, and tons of armaments, then this is the plane for you.

VRS – F/A-18E SUPERBUG FSX — The Wasp Insecticide Review

Military Slang

One of the most important features modelled in this plane is the callout for ‘bingo fuel’.  Bingo fuel

Is US Military slang for “a pre-briefed amount of fuel for an aircraft that would allow a safe return to the predetermined base (airfield, carrier, etc).”  In the VRS FA18E Superbug this is called out quite accurately as I found out when I didn’t make it back to my base aircraft carrier.  Splash. . . !!!

Background and Performance Specifications (ref: Wikipedia & Ausairpowernet)

In simple terms the F/A-18E/F (a more advanced derivative of the earlier F-15A-D models) is a twin-engine multi-role fighter that has been optimised for the naval environment, ie carrier based.  It has the optimal fighter size for the given combat radius and is a supersonic, all-weather carrier-capable multi-role fighter, designed to attack both ground and aerial targets.  Avionics, radar, armaments, flight design & characteristics have all been updated giving the most advanced model for today’s role in warfare.

Originally manufactured by McDonnell Douglas, the Super Hornet first flew in 1995 with full production beginning in 1997, following the merger of McDonnell Douglas and Boeing.  The FA18-E entered service with the US Navy in 1999.  The Royal Australian Air Force ordered F/A-18F Super Hornets in 2007 to replace its aging F-111 fleet and its first aircraft entered service in March 2010.

Data from U.S. Navy fact file, Aerospaceweb and Wikipedia

General characteristics

Crew F/A-18E:

1

Length:

60 ft 1¼ in (18.31 m)

Wingspan:

44 ft 8½ in (13.62 m)

Height:

16 ft (4.88 m)

Wing area:

500 ft² (46.45 m²)

Empty weight:

30,600 lb (13,900 kg)

Loaded weight:

47,000 lb (21,320 kg)

Max takeoff weight:

66,000 lb (29,900 kg)

Power plant:

2× General Electric F414-GE-400 turbofans

Dry thrust:

14,000 lbf (62.3 kN) each

Thrust with afterburner:

22,000 lbf (97.9 kN) each

Internal fuel capacity F/A-18E:

14,400 lb (6,530 kg),

External fuel capacity:

5 × 480 gal tanks, total 16,380 lb (7,430 kg)

Performance

Maximum speed:

Mach 1.8+ (1,190 mph, 1,900 km/h) at 40,000 ft (12,190 m)

Range:

1,275 nmi (2,346 km)

Combat radius:

390 nmi

Ferry range:

1,800 nmi (2,070 mi, 3,330 km)

Service ceiling:

50,000+ ft (15,000+ m)

Wing loading:

92.8 lb/ft² (453 kg/m²)

Thrust/weight:

0.93

Design load factor:

7.6 g[83]

Flight Level (FL) Note: (Courtesy Wikipedia)

A Flight Level (FL) is the nominal altitude of an aircraft, in hundreds of feet. This altitude is calculated from the average sea-level usually given as 1013.25 hPa (29.92 “Hg).  Flight levels are described by a number, which is basically the altitude in feet, divided by 100, so FL260 = 26,000 feet.  FL is not necessarily the same as the aircraft’s true altitude either above mean sea level or above ground level.  I recommend reading this Wikipedia article to fully understand this measurement: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_level.

TACAN — tactical air navigation system (courtesy Wikipedia)

This is the navigation system used by military aircraft, designed to separate it from civilian aircraft.

In simple terms, it is the military version of the VOR/DME system and can be combined with this system where it is called VORTAC.  The beauty of TACAN is that it can be mounted almost anywhere, eg the back of a truck, a ship, a tanker, etc.  However, as with other navigation systems, GPS is now starting to take over as the primary navigation system.

In the Sim

I do not intend to comprehensively describe every instrument or nuance of the VRS FA-18E, but rather concentrate on how easy it was to get into the air, fly and land.  Suffice to say that nearly every instrument in the VC of this plane works with a mouse click, keystroke, button or axis, and where a particular one is not modelled it is mentioned in the manual.  It would literally take me 6 months of only flying the F/A18-E to cover all of the features and this review would be longer than the manual.

One exception to my rule above is that I want to discuss the ACM in a little bit of detail as this is the key to setting up this aircraft correctly.

ACM – VRS Aircraft Configuration Manager (“F/A-18E”) SE

The ACM is where you set up the FA18E to whatever configuration, armament, fuel loading etc that you need for a particular mission.  When you open the ACM you will see the following screen which has 8 tabs for configuration.  Note, only 6 can be directly configured with “summary” reflecting your “payload” changes and messages displaying any messages from VRS,

HUD Collimation

Ensures that the HUD is optically and operationally correct with respect to the outside world regardless of head position.  (Important especially for Track IR users.

Figure 2 VRS ACM TAB 1

Payload:

On the payload tab above, note the “Preset Package” this gives the choice of preconfigured payloads for a particular mission.  For example “Tanker” gives 5 drop tanks and minimal weapons and “Strike 1” used in the tutorial gives a loading of “Kick-A” weaponry. Clicking on each weapon, tank etc gives a description of that component.  It is important to choose a balanced payload as this  will impact on the stability and handling of the F/A18-E.  One tip for carrier landing: choose the lightest configuration possible and keep fuel to just above bingo!

Fuel:

Not surprisingly this allows you to fill all tanks and empty all tanks, and choose which tanks that you will fill or empty.

Failures:

You can make anything fail on this plane from, Avionics, Electrical, Hydraulics (Lo & Hi) and Instruments.  I left this option well alone as I wanted to see what failures that I alone was engendering by my terrible piloting skills.

Preferences:

These are numerous and very comprehensive, requiring reading the manual in depth to set them correctly.  The preferences cover:

Preference Tab

Settings

ACM

Units, load, tooltips itself,

Aerial refuelling

Tanker aircraft and refuelling options,

Carrier Ops

Carrier choice, deck orientation, size, etc,

Controls

The various axes and “debug” level for program faults

Hostility Zones

Basically how you would like to be shot down — I liked the “lethality” choice,

Keyboard

The special keyboard commands and

Simulation

Eye candy, lights, etc.

Treat this section with care as the preferences you choose will be far reaching.  For example, choose “Cold & Dark” under “Simulation” and that will mean that you won’t move an inch until you get the start procedure correct.  Watch those “Hostility Zones” set this incorrectly and every US airport will send up a barrage of SAM missiles as you are on final approach!!  – Just kidding!!

Liveries

You get to sight all of the 42 available liveries.  You can also edit, save, export and import liveries.  Careful here, delete a livery and it is gone forever!

Reference

This extremely comprehensive section covers:

Choice

Action

Checklists

Every conceivable check list (all selectable for reading) that you would ever need:

Normal Procedures
Carrier Based Procedures

Special Procedures

Emergency Procedures

Reference

TACAN paired frequencies

Keyboard

Key Command Toggle SHIFT+CTRL+M

Toggled on by default

Listing all of the special key commands that override the normal FSX key strokes.

Example: In FSX by default “A” gives the ‘view in the next category’ but under the Key Command “A” can be set to “AUTOPILOT TOGGLE” and in the VRS F/A18-E pressing “A” operates the autopilot.


Summary:

This displays in a window on the right, Weight (Red is overweight, Green is good to go), Payload Drag Index, Lateral Weight Symmetry.  This reflects the changes made on the “Payload” and “Fuel” tabs.

Messages:

Self explanatory (requires web connection).

Settings: On my system in the Select aircraft menu in FSX under “Publisher” I was presented with the tab for “Vertical Reality Simulations” and this allows the choice of all the 40+ liveries.

RIG Caution

One very important setting that is stressed in the manual that under \Settings\Realism\Flight Model that the “General” Slider must be full right.  When you fly a VRS FA18E variant in FSX, you get a warning both verbal and a “yellow caution” sign, this is the “RIG” caution, and you just need to “wiggle” the joystick, to make sure that the controls have been “detected”.  If this warning persists it means that you need to move your “GENERAL” slider full right.

The Guide: The manual including tutorial is the size of a small novel being 352 pages in length.  It took me nearly a week to read it fully and understand how to set up and fly this very complex and skittish plane.  It covers just about every aspect of the plane and I was really pleased to see and undertake the tutorial which made the review comprehensive and much easier to undertake.  The current manual has 9 major chapters sections covering all aspects of the plane including, Getting Started, Tutorial, ACM, Aircraft, Cockpit Systems, Paint Kit, Keyboard Reference, Checklists and Glossary.  The manual, although long and initially daunting is extremely well-written and very informative.  The diagrams and pictures are all well labelled down to which button, key, switch; etc does work or does not work as the case may be.  I found it be very comprehensive any real deficiencies to be minor in nature.  It was one of the longest manuals that I have ever read but I guess that certain sections such as “Paint Kit”, “Glossary” wouldn’t need too much input.  For me the best section was the tutorial it helped to get me into the air in quite a short time.

The Viz

I did see some impact on frame rates in my FSX install, but although the fps dropped around 5 — 10- fps I saw very little loss of smoothness in operation.

The modelling is outstanding with interior and exterior textures being crisp and clear.  There are 42 liveries representing all active F/A-18E USN squadrons and the fictional Blue Angels.  The liveries are sub-divided into “CAG”, “Line” “Test” and Blue Angels”.  The Commander of the Aircraft Group (CAG) planes are the more colourful of the Liveries and the “Line” liveries being of the low-visibility paint scheme assigned to the active service aircraft.  Not surprisingly the “Blue Angels” liveries are blue and the “Test” versions also vary in colour.  In the manual there is a comprehensive section on repaints and in the ACM under “Liveries” you can edit, import, export and save liveries as detailed above.

Figure 3 VRS FA 18E CAG Livery

Figure 4 VRS FA18E LINE Livery

Figure 5 VRS FA18E Blue Angel’s Livery, 40,000’ above SF with Wing Tip Vapour Effects

Figure 6 VRS FA18E TEST Livery KSEA Mt Rainier in the background

Animations and the bits that open – Canopy, Radome, Access Panels, & Ladder

To open the various exits, you can use the default FSX commands:

Using the Shift + E plus 1, 2, 3 and/or 4 will open in order ie from the external view:

  • Shift+E—-release
  • Press 1—-opens the canopy
  • Press 2 —- opens the boarding ladder
  • Press 3 —- opens the Radome
  • Press 4 —- opens the access panels

For example pressing Shift + E…1….2 would open the canopy and extend the boarding ladder

Figure 7 VRS Superbug Canopy, Radome, Access Panels Open and Boarding Ladder extended.

There are many other animations and these are well documented in the manual or on the forum, including a head turning and saluting pilot.

The FA18E is a single seat, high wing, metal constructed fighter bomber, powered by two 2× General Electric F414-GE-400 turbofans and has fully retractable “tricycle” landing gear.  There is excellent forward visibility, with the pilot in the optimum position to see forward left and right and rearwards with the aid of two mirrors.  In the VC the aircraft is optimised (with HUD Collimation) for use with the TrackIR, and this device also makes a huge difference in realism and visibility.  The range of this aircraft (and hence its fuel consumption) varies according to the mission undertake, ie ranging from 1,275 nmi (2,346 km) in clean mode with limited missiles and a combat radius of 390 nmi (449 mi, 722 km) for typical combat mission (courtesy Wikipedia).  [Note: The F/A-18F model is a tandem-seat variant and VRS may model this in the near future].  In one flight lightly loaded plus external tanks I flew around 1100nm in approximately one and a half hours.

The Tutorial

The tutorial covers 90 pages and covers just about every aspect of flying the FA18-E, ie take-off, navigation (all types, VFR, IFR, TACAN and ILS), instrumentation and land based approach and landing.  As you would imagine reading and understanding the instruments is a huge learning curve and the manual takes you expertly through the various instrument options and how and when to interpret them.  There is a large section covering the weaponry ie it describes how to load and arm the various missiles Air to Air, Air to Ground and the bombs, and obviously firing or dropping these weapons.  It also describes how to avoid being shot down by using HARM (High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile, ECM (electronic countermeasures) eg chaff deployment, and even includes a towed decoy system as a last ditch protection system.  Other defensive systems modelled (coordinated through the Integrated Defensive Countermeasures system (IDECM), include, the ALQ-165 Airborne Self-Protect Jammer (ASPJ), an ALR-67 radar warning receiver, but apparently no AAR-47, which is an Infra-Red and Ultra-Violet Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS) sometimes fitted to the super hornet (Wiki).  Sound effects of the weapons hitting home are awesome and these can be heard quite clearly in the cockpit.  It is a great way to get to know the plane and it sets you up for mid-air fuelling and carrier operations.

3rd Party Repaints

With 42 built in I didn’t look for any more repaints..

Instruments in the Interior:

There is one basic (complex) cockpit layout for the 42 repaints.  This is well described in the manual, having its own section.  The cockpit depicts the usual avionics/navigation instruments plus an intuitive throttle and auto pilot system, plus all of the other combat orientated controls needed for acquiring targets, firing weapons, dropping bombs, emergency jettisoning of ordnance and fuel, pilot ejection and so on.  These are crystal clear and you can even remove the joystick at the click of a button so that you can see all of the functions on the Multi-Purpose Colour Display (MPCD).  As I said above over 95% of the switches, knobs, buttons etc are operational and the manual informs you which of these are not modelled in the VRS FA18E.

There approximately 20 discrete sections of instrumentation in the cockpit and these are thoroughly described in the manual.  The HUD is exceptional, being very clear and you can change the colour (hue) and brightness with a couple of keystrokes, it makes navigation and landing approaches very easy indeed but you need to study all of its symbology to fully appreciate its versatility.  These sections can be viewed from the Cockpit View Mode.  The various view modes in the VC can also be selected using the “S” key as normal.

The various Cockpit View Modes are

  • VRS VC
  • MPCD — Multi-purpose colour display — HSI functions.
  • Left DDI — Digital Display Indicator — support and tactical systems.
  • Left Aux Console, gear, brake, landing lights, etc
  • Left Console, various instruments, including APU, throttle, fuel panel, etc
  • UFCD Up Front Control Display — autopilot, navigation and backup.
    (Allows data entry from keyboard or mouse)
  • Right DDI, tactical day to day functions.
  • Right Aux Console, wing fold, hydraulic pressure gauge
  • Right Console, Electrical Panel, Battery, FLIR, etc

Night lighting of the panels is superlative and the A2A Shockwave landing lights really illuminate the foreground.  Apparently for the night lighting of the VC instruments there are 4 separate interior lighting circuits in 3 modes, reflecting the various night periods.  Below are a series of cockpit screenshots (including at night) to illustrate the typical layout of the various VRS FA18E panels and sub-panels.  All of the instruments, interior and exterior lighting are NVG (Night Vision Goggles) compatible. I didn’t test this enhancement out!

Figure 8 VRS FA18E VRS VC view with HUD

Figure 9 VRS FA18E MPCD Night View — NVG compatible.

Figure 9A VRS FA 18 E MPCD view NO Joystick

Figure 10 VRS FA 18 E LEFT DDI and note rear view mirror!

Figure 11 VRS FA 18 E LEFT AUXILIARY Console

Figure 12 VRS FA 18 E LEFT Console

Figure 13 VRS FA 18 E UFCD

Figure 14  VRS FA 18 E RIGHT Console.jpg

Figure 15 VRS FA 18 E RIGHT AUXILIARY Console

Figure 16 VRS FA 18 E RIGHT DDI.jpg

Figure 17 VRS FA 18 E 2D View with HUD

If you hit F10 there is no 2-D panel but you do get an unrestricted view forward with an on-screen HUD.

Figure 18 VRS FA 18 E VC HUD Colour change at Night

Figure 19 VRS FA 18 E Effective SHOCKWAVE Lights

In the air

The engine can be started manually, or Ctrl + E also works.  Posted in the forum FAQ there is an abridged version on how to start this plane from cold and dark and I recommend that this technique is used to start the FA-18 in FSX.  There is an option to set cold and dark in the ACM (Preferences\Simulation\Avionics) but there is a warning that if you do this the next time you select the FA18E many gauges etc will stay turned off and you will need to manually start the plane, ie Ctrl + E will not work successfully..

If you want to get into the air quickly I list a quick start/fly procedure that is in the manual and is similar to Larry Mudges’s (Skinny Puppy) review of the FS9 version of the VRS FA-18E.  These 10 points should become second nature, if like me, you don’t want to spend 30 minutes or so getting the plane airworthy from C&D!

  1. Start Runway/Parking. (Default is engines running and you are in Key Command Mode.)
  2. Press CTRL+S (Seat Arm)
  3. Press CTRL+F (HALF flaps – T/O position)
  4. Press CTRL+T (Activate Take-off trim)
  5. Press “.” or brake pedal (Release the parking brake)
  6. Throttles to MAX
  7. Rotate 135 – 145 knots (in real life with an afterburner the plane can rotate at 105 KCAS).
  8. Climb at 12 – 15° angle
  9. Gear Up (<240 KCAS)
  10. Flaps Up (Auto retract at 240KCAS)

I set all my controls in FSX to realistic ie to the far right and as I have said before you must set the General Tab far right in order to control the plane effectively. For successful take-offs I used the 10 point plan above, I rotated at 135 KIAS and carried out a climb-out at approx 250 KCAS, approximating to around 17,000 FPM.  I climbed rapidly reaching FL200 in about 3 minutes from brake release. I levelled out at FL260 and maintained an economical speed of Mach 0.95.

I initiated a supersonic run in an attempt to see if supersonic handling was any different to subsonic handling, increasing the throttles to max, the aircraft accelerated through the sound barrier (>Mach 1 around 600 KCAS @ FL260).  Unfortunately even after several tries I did not feel any bump (even with FS Force) to indicate that I had gone from “subsonic” to “supersonic”.  (But silly me I took a look outside when I was “supersonic” and saw a cone of vapour around the plane and thought that it was a video card artefact when in fact it was, “A conically shaped high pressure surface being formed by a jet travelling faster than the speed of sound”.  It is also called ‘The Prandtl—Glauert’ singularity aka as a vapour cone, or shock collar (Wikipedia).)  There was little difference in the handling at supersonic speeds, even at a real life suggested roll rate of about 120°/sec.  I tried to push the plane at altitude FL400 to Mach 2.0 but I kept seeing the “over-speed” indicator so I was obviously doing something wrong.  I found that at any height or speed it was quite an easy aircraft to control and it was great to skim the waves at 500’ or lower.  What this demonstrates is that VRS have modelled the control augmentation system (CAS) accurately.  From Wiki, “A CAS is implemented in the forward path and represents high-authority “power steering,” providing consistent response over widely varying flight conditions”.

VRS have emulated a fly-by-wire control system in their aircraft and this needs a little getting used to if, like me, you fly basically mechanical/hydraulic controlled aircraft.  Small gentle movements are the order of the day.

Figure 20 The ‘Prandtl—Glauert’ singularity or Vapour Cone effect — San Diego.

Stalls

I tried to stall the plane and because I’m a coward I did this at FL350, I set the throttles at minimum and elevated the plane up slightly, it took a long time to induce a stall which occurred at around 125 KCAS.  Just before the stall the controls became less responsive ie slow and sloppy, but once in the stall lowering the nose, increasing the throttle, and countering the yaw soon corrected the issue.  I do not recommend this procedure.

Landing

I used the manual procedure to land the FA18 in a VFR landing on a land-based airfield eg KSEA.  On approach I descended to 5,000’ and reduced my airspeed to <240 KCAS by which time I was round 20 nm from the runway.  If you need to reduce approach speeds, the ‘speed brakes’ or spoilers are intuitive, in the air they work until the planes speed drops to 240KCAS, but they work at any speed on the ground.  Using the HUD (impossible without it) I started to descend at around 800 — 1000’/se.  The angle of attack was around 8° and I had to use the auto-throttle (basically to accurately control thrust) to ensure that I wasn’t too high or too low or too fast!!  Below 240 KCAS, I selected full flaps and extended the landing gear and slowly reducing speed and altitude I landed safely most of the time!  The “best” landing speed for me was around 145 KCAS at which I could control the airplane quite comfortably.  A speed much below 145 and you were ploughing fields several miles from the runway, and a speed much above 145 and you stopped in the next county.

Figure 21 Landing imminent KSEA forgot those lights again!

Sounds

The sounds are very realistic and in a word, ‘awesome’.  With my system including my subby at full bore the whole house shook as we started the take off roll, there was also bangs and clatters from the plane moving over imperfections in the tarmac (courtesy FS Force).  There are of course more sounds than just the engine sounds, you hear a click when the seat is armed and the various warning sounds or voice warnings if you are doing something that you shouldn’t be doing.  For example, when you detach the canopy during the ejection procedure there is an almighty bang and the canopy explodes into thin air, followed closely by a “whoosh” as the pilot in his ejection seat disappears into the sky at a great rate of knots. Another of my favourites, and this has been commented on my other reviewers” is the “bingo fuel” warning, which is given in a sultry female voice, actually instructing you to fill up with 4-star avgas immediately.  In other words this is the “low fuel” warning, but at least she didn’t shout “house” or “clickety click”.  There are even sounds of a bomb hitting a target, but I didn’t get to hear that one.  The developer states that there are over 70 x 22K x 16-bit discrete cockpit sound samples alone, and they certainly ain’t the default ones.  It was also nice to note that the (engine) sounds changed depending on your position and/or view at that time and external sounds were louder than internal sound — nice modelling.  You almost feel that you will be blown away if you stand behind the en

Figure 22 Bang!! Whoosh!! The ejection sequence

Figure 23 VRS FA 18 E Ejection Sequence the pilot is safe but a bit low (one of the plateaued airfields that Justin Tyme hasn’t fixed yet with his ATAP fix!)

Carrier Missions

You can enable and set your carrier preferences in the ACM.  You will see the following screen where you can choose and add whatever Carrier you intend to use.

Figure 24 VRS FA 18 E  ACM PREFERENCES CARRIER OPS

I used the “Acceleration Carriers Option” for this part of the review, as I didn’t want to install any other 3rd party software.  The VRS F/A18-E is equipped with a launch bar and a tail hook to assist in take-off and landing on a carrier deck.

The best method of carrying out the carrier ops that I found was on the VRS forum and to get the VRS Super Hornet onto the carrier I used the following method:

  • Start FSX choose Missions
  • Click the box “Enable changes” (No points for the mission)
  • Start Carrier Tutorial (Intermediate)
  • Default FA/18-E loads, cold & dark put on parking brake as plane will roll of the deck.
  • Pause Flight
  • Change aircraft and choose a VRS Superbug variant.
  • Start Engine and follow the mission instructions.

Note: If you use the second mission Carrier Practice (Advanced) the engines are started but you need to change the time to “Day” as the original mission is at dusk and it gets dark very quickly.

For the landing I used the following table from the VRS forum to help line up correctly:

From 5 nmi

  • Gear Down
  • Flaps Full
  • Hook Down (SHIFT + Q)
  • AOA — 8.1°
  • 3 nm, push nose down -  3° Glide-slope
  • Auto throttle armed

Distance to
Carrier

Altitude
in feet

5 nmi

1200’

3 nmi

1200’

2 nmi

850’

1 nmi

480’

3/4 nmi

320’

I managed about 1 in 50 successful landings but I was getting better towards the end.

Figure 25  VRS FA 18 E Ready for take-off no turning back

Figure 26 VRS FA 18 E finally a successful take-off

Figure 27 VRS FA 18 E Carrier Mission start

Figure 28 VRS FA 18 E Carrier Landing but missed the arrestor wires

Figure 29 VRS FA 18 E Carrier Wings Folded

Mid-Air Refuelling

You can refuel this plane in mid-air to extend the operational time, etc, but it involves using the FSX AI planes and if you are using these then the process for setting up is reasonably complicated.  There are 3rd party add-ons of course but I did not install these, and you do appear to need a 3rd party AI flight planner.  I have to admit try as I might I could not “find” the default AI Tanker (Airbus A320) so I could not test out this feature, but that was my fault for not getting a handle on TCAN navigation in the VRS F/A18-E.  However, a number of simmers on various forums have published screenshots showing that this is achievable, so I put my own failure down to my poor technique or understanding the instructions.  I believe that the manual could be clearer and give a step by step setup for this process.  I have re-visited the forum and mid-air refuelling just using the default FSX AI planes with no 3rd party flight planner would be next to impossible.


Summing Up:  This is a great fighter jet!  Like all reviewers before me I was hampered in this review knowing that the VRS model was superb and then figuring out how to write about a plane that has and does everything.  I reckoned that if I flew this plane alone every time I opened FSX it would take me 6 months to fully master its complexities and intricacies.  Not a bad way to spend 6 months!  This is not an aircraft for every simmer but for one that is a military buff or an adrenalin junkie then it fulfils all of your desires and then some.  There were some minor deficiencies, ie setting up the default aircraft carriers for landing & take-off, and AI aircraft for mid-air refuelling.  Unfortunately I couldn’t try the various 3rd party add-ons which may have made these operations much easier to achieve.  On the plus side, the developers are all dedicated and support and advice is second to none, the forum is a mine of information about the plane.  There are exciting enhancements from VRS on the horizon with SP1 imminent and a “pro” pack in the works.  It is the simple things that make a great piece of simulation software and in this case the highlight for me was the accurate modelling of supersonic flight in the display of the ‘Prandtl—Glauert’ singularity (figure 20).  The final verdict, without a doubt this is THE ultimate fighter jet for your military hangar, with the take home message that the VRS F/A18-E is accurate, fast, manoeuvrable, beautiful and deadly.

WOW Factor: 9½/10

Peter Hayes, Australia, May 2010.


Acknowledgements:  Sincere thanks to Larry Mudge (“Skinny Puppy”) for allowing me to use his 2009 review of the FS 2004 VRS F/A18-E as a template for this FSX review.

Screenshots showing incredible detail in this model:

Figure 30 Incredible detail underbelly

Figure 31 Incredible Detail top view

Figure 32 Incredible Detail backburner

Figure 33 Incredible detail head on

Figure 34 Incredible detail steep bank

Figure 35 Incredible detail top view

Appendix 1  FSX VRS FA18 Ordnance and Payload

Missile/Bomb

Type

Range

Speed

AIM-9X “Sidewinder”

AA Missile

15Nm

1650 KIAS

AIM-9M “Sidewinder”

AA Missile

15Nm

1650 KIAS

AIM-7 “Sparrow”

AA Missile

40NM

2650KIAS

AIM-120 AMRAAM

AA Missile

35NM

2650KIAS

AGM-65E “Laser Maverick”

Air to Ground Missile

12NM

620 KIAS

AGM-84D “Harpoon”

Air to Ship Missile

120NM

460 KIAS

AGM-84H SLAM-ER

Land Attack Missile

150NM

560 KIAS

AGM-154A JSOW)

GPS Guided Bomb

40NM

N/A

AGM-88C HARM

Air to Ground Missile

26NM

1320 KIAS

GBU-10 “Paveway II”

Laser Bomb

8nm

N/A

GBU-12 Paveway II x 2 (Mk82)

Laser Bomb

8nm

N/A

GBU-31 JDAM

GPS Guided Bomb

15NM

N/A

Payload Item

Description

Volume

FPU-11 480 USG

external fuel tanks

480 US Gall

ASQ-228 ATFLIR

IR Pod

30NM

AA42R-1 “Buddy Tank”

external fuel tanks

300 USGall

SUU-78A

centre pylon


LAU-1126A

cheek pylons


SUU-79A

main pylon


SUU-80A

outboard pylon


LAU-127A

tip launcher rail


Appendix II Quick and Dirty Guide to starting from Cold and Dark – The QDCD (Ref VRS Forum)

  • Set parking brake
  • Verify BLEED AIR set OFF
  • BATT ON (L GEN/R GEN lights will come on)
  • EFD BRT switch on (EFD should turn on with minimal info)
  • L/RDDI brightness switches to AUTO (the DDI’s will remain off)
  • HUD BRIGHT knob clockwise from off (HUD will remain off)
  • MPCD BRT knob clockwise from off (MPCD and UFCD will remain off)
  • L GEN/R GEN both to NORM
  • APU switch to ON (EFD should have a bit more info now)
  • Wait for APU READY light to come on
  • Right Throttle to IDLE (right click on it)
  • ENG CRANK to R (RPM on right engine should increase on EFD, with engine light-off at approximately 21% RPM)
  • Once right engine is on, you should get full EFD data (and see nozzle position) along with all the displays coming on. There will be many cautions.
  • BLD KNOB to NORM
  • Left Throttle to IDLE (right click)
  • ENG CRANK to L (Watch EFD to verify engine light-off)
  • APU OFF
  • Anti-Skid switch to ON
  • FCS Reset (either on left main console or CTRL-SHIFT-F from key command mode).

The aircraft is now fully powered and there should be no cautions, warnings, or advisories

Appendix III Developer’s notes

Support Developer’s Note:

John Blum of VRS states: “we have a great record of providing support via our website forums and are committed to producing additional content for both existing and planned products.”  I concur with the support, I used email and the forum and received a reply by the next day (bearing in mind that I am located in Australia).

VRS FA18-E and FSUIPC4 — Assignment of Axes, keys, switches and buttons – Developer’s note

John Blum of VRS states:  Joystick axes will NOT work in the VRS FA18-E if directly assigned in FSUIPC.   (Axes can still be calibrated in FSUIPC4)  The VRS currently supports axes assignment the “normal” way through FSX.  However, key/button assignments are completely different and can be mapped through FSUIPC4.  Once the VRS FA-18E is in key command mode (the default), Jon states that: If the key command mode is ON, custom keys are sent to our simulation (no matter where they’re mapped). When key command mode is OFF, custom keys are NOT sent to our simulation.  In other words, when key command mode is ON, any keys/combinations that share the same mapping as FSX “normal” keys are overridden in favour of the custom commands.

Table of the Important Bits:

Publisher:

Vertical Reality Simulations

Supplier:

Simmarket by direct download.

http://secure.simmarket.com/vrs-fa-18e-superbug-fsx.phtml

Download
File Size:

236 MB (ZIP File) extracts to 236 MB exe file

Installation
File Size:

618 MB in \SimObjects\Airplanes\VRS_FA-18E

Simulator Requirement:

FSX with Service Pack 2 or Acceleration/X-pack or FSX Gold
.NET Framework: 3.0+  - Must Have

FSUIPC: 4.60+ or latest for FSX — Must Have or the Sim will crash with the FA18.

OS Requirements:

Win XP, Vista/Windows 7 32-bit and 64-bit;

Graphics Minimum: 256MB 1024×768

Graphics Excellent:   512MB 1920×1200

CPU Minimum (8-12 FPS): 3.2GHz Single Core

CPU Average (20-30 FPS): 2.5GHz Intel Dual/Quad Core

CPU Excellent (35-45 FPS): 3.6GHz Intel Dual/Quad Core

Variants:

1

Paint Schemes/ Liveries

42 official liveries including all active F/A-18E USN squadrons and fictional Blue Angels

Cockpit

3D (VC) plus 2D sub panels; No 2D Panels

Supplementary:

Developer’s Note: The VRS Superbug is a COMPLEX aircraft requiring English reading skills and patience to master.

Testing System:

Intel E8600, 4GB DDR 800 RAM, Vista 64 SP2, nVidia 9800 GT, 182.50 Driver;
FSX SP1 + SP2; 750GB SATA II Seagate 7200 HDD.  Logitech G940; FS Force;
No Tweaks all standard and no over-clocking.

Scenery:

FSX standard, GEXn, UTX, FSGenesis LC/Mesh; FEX; FTX; ProMesh: California & Texas.

Installation:

Installation is simplicity itself extract the zip file and then run the self extracting exe file.  Should be installed with Admin rights — VISTA right click “Run as administrator”.

Activation

Enter supplied Licence ID and Password

Uninstall

Use Windows add/remove programs

Manuals / Documentation

350+ page comprehensive manual including a 90 page tutorial.

Support email

support@vrsimulations.com — see Appendix III

Home Page:

http://www.vrsimulations.com

Forum:

http://www.vrsimulations.com/forums/phpBB3/index.php

Updates

Service Pack 1 will be available in the next month or so.  The SP! Aptly called “TacPack”, will add new weapons, air-to-ground radar and targeting, true lethality for bombs, missiles and guns (all AI will be vulnerable to weapons systems), and a revolutionary AI refuelling system.

About Miguel Blaufuks

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