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Formerly Known as "WIP Wednesdays".  Now its probably best to think of this as "When we get chance Wednesday".

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Rock

Several people have been asking for an AW159 update.  I don't have anything pretty that demonstrates progress so here is the Project summary sheet.

Phases:

  • ALPHA : Two blocks to reach alpha.  #1 Model/Script/Config created and #2 ingame = Alpha.
  • BETA: Three blocks. #1intial Testing #2 Reworks #3 Testing.  If the testing fails it reverts to the previous block.
  • RC (Release Candidate): #1 Textures and Scripts working as spec. #2Play testing. #3Reworks and improvements.
  • GOLD: #1 Final release standard QA #2 Play testing #3 Reworks and improvements.
  • PUBLIC: Final QA phase and that's it for release.

All the bars go green and it out for release.

AW159_Status.JPG

NOTES:

  1. The winch option is reliant on a script that is only just a simple concept at this time and may not make it into the first release.
  2. I haven't done the AH1 model changes yet because there is no point until the HMA2 is complete as the AH1 is pretty much a HMA2 with bits deleted.
  3. The CRV7 and LAU pods are still in RC as the pods need repainting
  4. Torpedos and Depth Charges are not show as they are not working at this time and will be included at a later release when ive got a decent solution for them.

Hope that satisfies.

Rock

Rock

Yes I know yet another project but its not as bad as you may think. Im sick of the GPMG and M3M Loding. Its not fun so been taking a break = New Merlin HC4, interior progress...nowhere near done.  Proper WIP update soon.  #wip #rksl #MerlinHC4 #arma3official

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Rock

The GPMG saga continues. Last night I discovered the dims on the original rounds and ammo box were out.  Which led me to remake the rounds, link, box and adjust the model some more (changes the UV). One step forward, two back. ? #rksl #wip #arma3official 

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Rock

It will hold:

  • 30x Cargo slots
  • 2x FFV Cargo turrets (not shown) on the foredeck
  • 1x Driver
  • 1x Cmdr (May get deleted not sure).  

Bay covers are toggeled via attributes (atm) not sure about that either.

The ViV option will use 90% of loadspace.

#rksl #arma3official #wip

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Rock

It's been an all nighter again. I got frustrated trying to sort the cargo out on the HAMs so I repainted the LCVP mk5 ? This was going to be part of the LPD pack but I'm now thinking of releasing this as a standalone.  Personnel and ViV versions are inWIP

WIP-LCVP5-01.png

LCVP mk5 External 95% done.  Details are almost done and now exporting from Substance. Cockpit next. (Is it a cockpit or a bridge?) Just realised i dropped a clanger with the lifting hook pedestal...kudos points if you can work it out.

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Rock

There has been a lot of interest in the HAM Trucks. More than I actually thought there would be, with lots of questions, suggestions and offers to test etc.  So, I thought it would be good to do a bit of an update. People asking about the Wildcat and a few others, I’ll cover those in another post.  If you are lucky enough to be part of our Test Group or managed to get your hands on a leaked version (The leaker has been found and disposed of)  you may have seen some of this already.

HAM? Are you dyslexic?
No I am not dyslexic.  Some people have said the name change is about Copyright (its Trademarks if i'm being picky) but this isn't entirely true. It is a long story, from a long time ago.  But it came about during a research phone call with MAN trucks PR team. Partly to ask for info but to also confirm their policy on the use of MAN trademarks in non commercial ways.  I had previously emailed but after a week i decided to chase it up.  To cut a long story short I was asking for information on the HX and SX series trucks and the person I was talking to got very snotty with me. Very Rude, I was polite but persistent and the call eventually ended with her calling me 'an ignorant pig' and slamming the phone down.   So now we have HAM trucks brought to you by an 'Ignorant Pig'.

PS I did speak to the actual PR Manager afterwards and he apologised and sent me a tonne of info and some MAN Goodies but I like the name so much I've stuck with it. By that I mean HAM not Ignorant Pig ;)

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HAM Status – What’s going on?
It’s getting there.  Progress is slow and steady.  The problem with making a mod is that once the visual model is done everyone thinks that’s it.  Its ready to release.  Sadly, it’s not that simple and explaining that is something I seem to do a lot of recently.

Once the model is done you need to animate it. Even then you’ve still got the other LoDs to do.  Each LoD is supposed to be 50% of the faces of the one before it.  This takes time to do properly.  In the earlier lods you don’t want to go too far as you lose too much detail as that will cause obvious transitions and ‘popping’.  Next is the Geometry (Collision detection LoD) and PhysX Geo, View Geo, Fire Geo and Hitpoints… and once all that is done.  Testing, scripting, tweaks, reworks based on feedback… and…and…and…you release it.  Then everyone finds the bugs you missed.  AND if you are lucky, they actually come to you and tell you about it… if you are lucky. :P
So be nice, be patient and see what happens.

HAM Truck FamilyWhat different kinds of HAM are we getting?

There are four different kinds of chassis types planned and each should come with different flavours:

1) 4x4 HX60

  • Troop – 14x cargo slots
  • Cargo – General Cargo
  • ‘Prime mover’ – Platform to form the basis of several optional payloads planned for future applications and uses.

Arguably the common workhorse, doing many different roles through the British Fleet.  There will be a Troop-carrying version that will have Driver + 2 in the cab and 14x Cargo Seats in the rear.  The Cargo version will have an open back with panel sides.  How this is going to work is still something I’m trying to work out. Time will tell.

2) 6x6 HX58

  • Cargo – General cargo not a troop carrier
  • Unit Support Tanker – Refueler

The HX58 is big brother of the HX60, it uses the same suspension system but its taller, has larger and more wheels, carries more weight than its little brother.  This means that its ideal for special purpose roles such as the Unit Support Tanker.

3) 8x8 HX77

  • EPLS
  • (Reserved #1 for something special)
  • (Reserved #2 for something special)

The largest of the HX chassis system the HX77 is the heavy load carrier of the fleet.  In the real world there are several cargo versions but since that should be well catered in game with the HX58 I’ve chosen to focus on the EPLS version. This is the Enhanced Palletised Load System, the replacement for the aging but very successful DROPS system. EPLS also allows for standard ISO Containers to be loaded without special equipment which DROPS did not.  Obviously giving operators far more flexibility on operations.

EPLS3.gif

Obviously, you can see the HX77 model isn't complete at the time i'm writing this.  The chassis needs adding, but the reason for this is simple.  Optimisation, I'm trying to get as many versions as possible, with the most detail out of the fewest possible textures.  As such i'm taking my time to get the chassis right so you don't see too many odd texture matches or seams.

Returning to in-game capability, I had hoped that Vehicle-In-Vehicle would be a perfect solution to this, and to some extent it is. Unfortunately it seems you can’t animate the ViV points after Init.  Which means although I spent a week making a lovely, fully animated system for it before I tested that. I probably should have proven the concept first (Hindsight is a wonderful thing)  It is incredibly disappointing to find that you simply cannot animate it.  @Bohemia, any chance you can fix that?

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I've tried several other non-scripted methods, physX and geo cages, roadways with mixed success.  Until I can come up with another solution, I’m just going to leave the VIV option in there. 

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Off the back of the EPLS project there will also be several objects that allows you to setup FARPs and FOBs. Fuel Racks, Repair Workshops, Medical bays etc.  As well as various shelters and systems that can be carried either on the DROPS pallets or directly on the backs of the Trucks themselves.  Most of these will serve a practical purpose, others may just be props.  I'm Not sure yet.

BELOW : Dismountable Fuel Rack - You can see these at various places in FOBs around Afghanistan and Iraq.  They serve as a semi-permanent but still moveable fuel station (Bit of an oxymoron i know) complete with pumps and hoses needed.  Tankers are a limited resource.  This is a cheaper way to deploy a fuel reserve into the field and not tie up a tanker.  It makes sense to produce a flexible multipurpose truck and drop these 'modules' off where needed than it is to buy a tanker for every base that needs one.

DROPS_Fuel_Rack.jpg

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FUTURE PLANS

I think its obvious that this is a big pack and a lot of time and effort has gone into it.  So I hope you understand that not everything may be available immediately. Time constraints are a real issue here as is my ability to get everything scripted perfectly.  If my free time and testing goes well everything should come out in the first release.  If not then there will be a future updates. 

In ArmA we have 3 types of Supply Truck: Ammo, Fuel and Repair.  The Cargo variants will have the option to load Ammo resupply pallets onto them.  The Unit Support Tanker and the EPLS with the Demountable Fuel Rack takes care of the Fuel option.  This leaves Repair.  Now I've spent a lot time talking with players asking what they want and how they want things to work.  Most feel the "Magic repair truck" feels a bit like cheating...but its useful. Other want something more practical.  I am going to try and cater for both.  The magic option will be part of the first release.  The more 'practical' option will likely come a little later.

sx45.jpg4) 8x8 SX45 – Future addition

  • SX45 Wrecker/Recovery

This probably won’t be immediately available.  While is does look very similar its actually a different cab and suspension setup.  And the rear structure and crane represent a lot more work.

It may take me a little longer to get this in game and working how I want.  It will fulfil the role of the repair truck with a few extras if I can get it working… since the EPLS/ViV issue bit me in the arse I don’t want to commit to all the details just yet but I'm hoping to make it a bit special.

So that is it for today. I hope you liked it and it answers some questions.

Have fun

Rock

May 2019

Rock

I’ve not done one of these for a while.  Real life just keeps butting in so sorry about that. The website has been neglected too.  The ease of shoving a picture and a few words up on Twitter and Faceache has won out over blogging.  I’ve just gotten lazy...ier? ?

So here we are, if you are one of my Twitter or Facebook followers you already know most of what I’m going to talk about.  There are some new bits so you may want to stick with it.

AW159 Wildcat Story

Some of you might remember from back-in-the-day (ArmA1) when I released my first Lynx AH7 & 9 pack, nearly 11 years ago now.  I said I was rather fond of the aircraft type, I have lots of good memories of testing the betas with some great lads.    Not to mention many evenings with a decent single malt and Gordy listening to 50 years of experience designing and operating many of the Westland Aircraft.   Sadly, he passed away a few years ago but every time I see a Lynx I have to smile.

UK MoD Render of the SCMR Concept

The Wildcat perpetuates that tradition of smiling, for a slightly different reason.  I have a fond memory of a cold winter’s night in a country pub near Yeovil getting plastered with Gordy.  And one of the most epic drunken rants in history.  One that drew an audience that laughed, howled and boo’ed on que as if scripted.  Gordy hated the Wildcat and wasn’t quiet about it, he considered it a huge mistake.  “Remaking the same old tired airframe without any real innovation.” The phrase a “polished turd” came up a few times.  An exercise in Politics, myopic penny pinching and a thousand other little phrases delivered with grand passion and no small amount of humour.  While he wasn't a fan of the Politics or management of the project he was very proud of the company and the legacy of Westland Helicopters having been a part of it for so long.

And talking with a few people that now operate and maintain the aircraft I think all that is largely true.  They seem to have the same issues they had with the old Types: Ah7,9,HMA8 & HAS3.  And some new ones introduced by the new technologies bolted on.

A Bit of background

In the mid 90’s the UK MoD announced they were going to replace the Royal Navy’s Lynx fleet with new HM1 Merlins.  Thanks to some fear mongering and subsequent politics, funding battles and some reported back room deals that did not happen.  Westland Helicopters managed to push through a proposal to extend the life of the fleet with the eventual replacement of the AH and HMA fleets with a new common platform that became known in the popular press as “Future Lynx”.  In the MoD this translated into two programmes.  Surface Combatant Maritime Rotorcraft (SCMR) and Battlefield Light Utility Helicopter (BLUH).  Eventually, after several years and increasing costs both project’s specifications were “streamlined”.  The National Audit Office conducted a study in 2004 and found that the Westland proposal for BLUH was not economically viable.  The report suggested that an alternate aircraft should be considered. Eg EC635, EC120 or the NH90.  None of which would have included any manufacturing in the UK.  Realising this the Politicians pushed the MoD to reduce the Utility requirements and instead opt for a more reconnaissance biased aircraft. BLUH was then renamed BRH (Battlefield Reconnaissance Helicopter).  The MoD ran a competition inviting Manufacturers to bid on the new requirement.  In the end, thanks to Westland being the last airframe manufacturer in the UK and some politics in back rooms around Westminster the £1Billion contract was awarded to AgustaWestland.

UK MoD Render of the BRH Concept

As the design matured and production began many commentators saw the obvious similarities to previous Lynx designs.  The claim is that the “AW159 comprises 95% new components; the remaining 5%, consisting of such items as the fuel system and main rotor gearbox, are interchangeable with the Lynx AH7 and HMA8 variants.”

This is true when compared to the older fleets but most of the systems including the engines, gearbox, avionics and software came from the existing Super Lynx 300 programme.  The only genuinely new and “innovative” design came in the form of the new airframe.   The claim there is a much-reduced RCS and in conjunction with new composite rotor blades creating an overall “stealthy” package.  I’m not sure that’s true but as with most defence projects there are a lot of buzz words being thrown around for the purposes of marketing.  But there is more internal space for fuel and avionics.  The cargo cabin (I’m told) actually got slightly smaller.

Operationally, the design changes have not improved much for the passengers.  Health and Safety Regulations meant that the old sling style benches were removed and replaced with proper crash worthy seating. Which, let me tell you are even more uncomfortable if you are larger than a fourteen year old wearing webbing.  This reduced the number of people that could fit in the back from a max of 8 (skinny people with no kit) to 4 plus a door gunner.  Having seen 4 people in the back of the Wildcat I’m not sure where the door gunner is supposed to sit.  I assume he (or now possibly she) is supposed to get intimate with the gun mount.

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In terms of general capability, the Wildcat is a huge improvement over the old AH7,9 and HMA8.  The uprated engines and BERP IV rotor blades give the Wildcat a much better payload and performance even over the “legacy” Super Lynx 300.

Super Lynx 300

Famously the AH7 simply could not operate in the Hot and High environment of Afghanistan.  They tried in 2006 but they very quickly discovered that the summer temperatures meant that the aircraft simply wasn’t able to produce enough power to fly safely.  A UOR (Urgent Operational Requirement) was raised to upgrade the AH9 to AH9A standard.  Basically, replacing the stock engines, gear box and blades with those of the SuperLynx 300.  This gave the aircraft enough power to operate for most of the year in Afghanistan.

And the new radar and Optical camera system have made the Wildcat into (on paper at least) a very credible ISTAR platform.  The naval variant now also has the capability to carry a host of new weapons as well as the legacy Sting ray torpedoes, GPMGs and the M3M .50 cal machine gun.

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There are two versions in operational use by the British Military:

HMA2 – Maritime Version

  • L-3 Wescam MX-15Di electro-optical/infrared nose turret for ISTAR
  • Equipped with a SELEX Galileo Seaspray 7000E active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar
  • Armed with upto 20 Martlet Light Multirole Missiles, Sea Venom Anti Shipping Missiles or unguided rockets.
  • Interestingly, unlike the HMA8 which it replaces the airframe does not include provision for dipping sonar.

AH1 – Battlefield Reconnaissance

  • L-3 Wescam MX-15Di electro-optical/infrared nose turret for ISTAR
  • Has no radar and as such is limited on its armaments.
  • Only mounts GPMG and M3M. I’m told it can support CRV7 Rockets but I’m also told its highly unlikely to ever have them mounted.

Official MoD Loadouts for the Wildcat.DnLs1HNW4AAu2Lg.png

The upcoming release will have both variants.  The HMA2 will support the Martlet, Sea Venom, LAU5003/CRV7 and M3M weapons.   Since the AH1 lacks radar it will only have GPMG, M3M and LAU5003/CRV7.  It will also be able to lift slightly more underslung payload as its technically lighter.

Sea Venom

seavenom.pngSea Venom is the replacement for the Royal Navy's Sea Skua missiles. Just like the Sea Skua it replaces Sea Venom is designed to attack small to medium surface targets, such as fast in-shore attack craft ranging up to the size of a corvette. With its 30 kg warhead, the missile is also capable of inflicting significant damage to larger vessels through precision aim point selection, and can also attack static land-based targets.

The missile is capable of being fired from over 20km away and features several attack modes including sea skimming and "pop up/top down attack."  Our version of the Sea Venom replicates that.  It uses an IR Seeker with the option of either Cruise of Top-down modes.  It should also be possible to send targeting info via datalink.  Its just something that I haven’t tested yet.

Martlet LMM

martlet.pngLMM was Thales' response to the MoD's Future Air-to-Surface Guided Weapon (Light) FASGW(L) requirement. LMM has been designed to be launched from a variety of naval, air and land platforms against a wide range of targets. But is only in UK use on the HMA2 Wildcat

The missile is described as a High precision missile capable of engaging small fast-moving targets at range with low collateral damage. Carried in packs of 5 missiles per pylon, typically on 2 pylons giving a normal payload of 10 missiles.  This apparently makes the missile suitable for Drug Interdiction and river/littoral combat roles.  Developed from the earlier Shorts (now Thales) Starstreak missile the Martlet has an IR guidance system with future planes for a Laser guidance option.  This means that in game you will have both IR and Laser guidance options to exploit.

LAU5003 & CRV7 Rockets

The LAU5003 is a common launcher pod for unguided US 2.75” FFAR and CRV7 70mm rockets.  It’s a common NATO setup and one that’s used until recently on the Harrier GR9 with great success in Afghanistan.  It’s the same rocket and warhead as is used on the British Apache AH1 albeit in a different pod.  Commonly used for target marking and area denial.  Both versions of which will be supported (hopefully – I’m having an issue with effects) in game.

M3M

I’ve already blogged about this part of the project but just to recap:

The M3M Machine gun was brought in to British service to improve the effectiveness of the Lynx series of helicopters.  Equipping the Royal Navy's HAS3 and HMA8 naval Lynxes, Merlin HM2 as well as the British Army's AH9As in Afghanistan.

The first British M3Ms to see service were mounted on the RN's airframes for drug interdiction operations in the Caribbean.  Where more than a few Drug Runners in Go-Fast Boats got a bit of a wakeup call.

You can read the rest of the article here.

GPMG

Finally, the old faithful.  I do plan on making a version with a modified legacy Lynx mount and GPMG.  I’m not sure it will see the first release but it will be added at some point.  Its not a huge project but as with the limits of the game engine it will mean a separate model.  The Dynamic Loadout system doesn’t cater for turrets instead of pylons.

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In-Game Design, Features and Compromises.

The entire project is intended to use the Advanced Flight Model.  I stopped using the basic setup a long time ago.  And the AFM give me so much more features to exploit than the basic flight model allows.  Having said that, there is a workable basic flight model.  Just don’t be surprised if a lot of the information on the MFDs does not work. ;)   

As always, I’m going for a realistic setup.  I’m trying to make the MFD’s as practical as possible. With the instrumentation giving out accurate data.  At least as far as the engine allows.  There is still a long way to go but I'm adding more in and fixing things everyday.

Things like deck handling and options for set dressing are being considered.20181108163522_1.jpg

There will be 3rd Party Optional/Recommended addons.  But these won't be a dependency.  I've chosen LESH's Towing and Duda's Advanced Rappelling as neither make dependancy demands or have much overhead.  Please contact me to discuss options if you desperately want something supported. I'm open to adding hooks, but not dependencies for other systems. 

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Not all aircraft are the same. Learning to fly the Wildcat with its quirks is part of the fun.  The Flight model is easy to master, but it does have some bad habits you do need to learn. VRS occasionally catches you out. There will be some limitations about payload.  Eg don’t expect to load Sea Venoms, Martlets and still get a squad in the back.  It is going to complain… a lot. :D

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So that’s it.  Project recap, plans and pics what more do you want?

"When will it be released?"

Possibly the most asked and most annoying question to answer.  Ok we aren't that far from a release.  There is still lots to do.  Fiddly things, bugs to fix.  Scripts to finish and tweak.  Most testing.  I've been play testing this week with DAR-V mostly with good results.  I've have tonnes of feedback, including a nine page PDF with calcs, suggestions diagrams and odd sketches.  But the answer is always going to be:

It will get released when its done.

or done...ish. ;)

 

Rock

Mmmmmmhhhmm M3M

Ok so this is proving to be a pain in my ass.  Among the many other issues I'm fighting atm is the joy of animating ammo feed belts in Arma3.

If you've never tried to do complex compound animations you probably won't understand the frustration.  If you have you are probably looking at the picture and thinking, 'masochist'.

RKSL M3M Mounted for the Wildcat.

IF THIS IS SO HARD, WHY BOTHER?

Simply because its such a big visual feature of the AW159 Wildcat and AH9A.  This huge .50 Cal monster, stuck like a limpet, on the side of the helicopter is a visually striking and intimidating thing and I think it deserves and needs to be done properly. 

... at least in my sleep deprived mind anyway.

4830087927_3c128d4001_o.jpgTHE NEXT GENERATION OF 50CAL

The M3M Machine gun was brought in to British service to improve the effectiveness of the Lynx series of helicopters.  Equipping the Royal Navy's HAS3 and HMA8 naval Lynxes, Merlin HM2 as well as the British Army's AH9As in Afghanistan.

The first British M3Ms to see service were mounted on the RN's airframes for drug interdiction operations in the Caribbean.  Where more than a few Drug Runners in Go-Fast Boats got a bit of a wake up call.

The M3M is made by Fabrique Nationale Herstal (FN Herstal) the M3M system also features a soft pintle mount, spade grips, a feeding chute connecting the gun to a 600-round ammo box and a spent round chute. Classic iron sights are fitted on this gun. But night vision or other optical sights can also be fitted above the spade triggers.

Chambered in the classic .50BMG (12.7x99mm) the M3M is a single barrel rapid fire machine gun specifically designed for helicopters.  Firing 1100 rounds per minutes out to a range of 2000 meters the M3M is an advancement on the classic Browning M2, thanks to a new open-bolt and dual recoil buffer design the weapon doesn't pass as much vibration to the airframe as the M2 does which makes using it on helicopters of all sizes so much easier and less dangerous for the aircrew.

A BIGGER PUNCH OVER THE GPMG

The first M3M equipped Lynx AH-9As were airlifted out to Afghanistan in May 2010 and begin support operations soon after.  This was the culmination of an 18 month Urgent Operation Contract that saw the upgrade of the AH9 airframe to improve the aircraft's "hot and high" performance as well at the attack and ISTAR capabilities of the type.  Something closer the spec of the Wildcat that would eventually come to replace it much later.

Previously the largest caliber weapon the Lynx could mount was the 7.62mm GPMG machine gun.  The addition of the M3M meant that the AH-9A could now be used to escort troop carrying Merlin and Chinooks freeing up the British Army's Apaches to prosecute more pressing targets and support Troops in Contact elsewhere.

COUNTING RIVETS

Before the rivet counters (yes I am usually one too) chime in and start to heap criticism; yes there is some missing details.  This is because i'm trying to work out the basic functions and animations first.  Full detailing and fiddly bits will all come later.  Assuming I survive animating the ammo feed channel so it moves properly with the turret.

And before people start to moan about specific of gun mounts and features, there are several different generations and iterations of the gun mounts in service out there.  The Lynx and Wildcat mounts both have subtle differences thanks to the different generations of products and experience in Afghanistan.  The Merlin HM2 has a different mount all together which is in-turn different that the mounts used by USN and USMC aircraft. 

Whats the take away from this?  One size does not fit all kids.

Recently I've been beset with 'forum-experts' telling me about the many, many things I have wrong.  As I hopefully proved on the BI Forums recently I really do try to do proper research and do actually seek the help of genuine experts in the field.  This input may sometimes be impractical to implement in game but I do try very hard to make things are realistic as the game engine (or my patience) allows.

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Anyway, its 0115GMT.  I've only had 2 hours sleep in the last 24 and I'm getting grouchy and I really do need my beauty sleep.

Hope you like the updates.  If you have genuine questions please do ask.  I'll try my best to answer them.  If not I'll try not to be too sarcastic.

Night all,

Rock

6th Feb 18

 

Rock

WK450_THUMB.jpgAfter three days of fighting with Modo, trying to get a decent baked texture.

I'm still working on the Airweapons Pack v3.100 and I'm just finishing up with the WK450 Tactical UAV aka The Flying Lawn mower, Its finally ingame and flying!

If you follow the RKSL Facebook or Twitter feeds you may have seen my recent post about failed baking and the ever extending time to bake progress bar. 

Just for the record it took 17 attempts and over 3 days to get it to bake properly in the end. 

I am actually quite happy with the result.  Even if it did nearly result in my having to by a new keyboard.

As with every model i make i learn new things. Not always necessarily about modelling.  More recently about the rigidity of Corsair mechanical keyboards, but in the past lessons have included such gems of wisdom as:

  • Never leave a full pint glass on the desk while the PC is baking - It may spontaneously fly off the desk when Modo crashes.
  • Never leave a tub of Roses chocolates in the office while you wait for a 90min bake to finish. - They mysteriously vanish.
  • Never be in a rush to go somewhere or do something while waiting for a bake to finish.
  • DO NOT Trust the "time remaining" bar... it LIES!

I could go on, thinking about it, there is probably another couple of blog posts about things that happen while waiting for a bake to finish. Anyway, the WK450 (as featured in an earlier post) is now fully textured, configed and LoD'd and flying.  It just needs tweeking, trimming up and a few bits of polish.

WK450_4.jpg

WK450_5.jpg

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I did start painting it in Substance painter but i found that to be a bit too frustrating.  I dont think Substance lends it self to making base textures and details that well.  Atleast not in my corrupted and winding workflow.  It does however make weathering and dirt etc so much easier to do convincingly. 

WK450_7.jpg

WK450_1.jpg

There are a few more thing I want to do with this, Shelters and extras are yet to be textured.  But I'll take it as a small victory over the Evil Dark Gremlins of Modo.  And the curse of the random PC lockup.

WK450_3.jpg

Coming soon to a British Forces Faction near you.

 

Rock

Rock

WIP---Watchkeeper-5.pngI’m still grinding away, slow progress with the air weapons pack.  Motivation is a bit of a problem this month as I’ve been working some really odd hours and completely lost my regular sleep pattern.  And if I am being honest I an really sick of configs and texturing endless missiles and bombs.  So, I’ve returned to my first love, modelling.  3D modelling not the catalogue kind.  The Rockape swimsuit edition would be truly terrifying.  Nobody needs to see that.

This week I’m still working on the RPAS (Remotely Piloted Air Systems) aka UAVs.  The Reaper is almost done.  The first round of testing has brought up some new issues, I have some config tweaks and resolution lods to do before it can be unleashed.  Not to mention the issue surrounding the weapons, which brings us back to the dreaded air-weapons pack thats holding almost everything back.  So, I’ve jumped onto the unarmed RPAS while I await more feedback from the Test Monkeys. 

Watchkeeper series of Tactical UAVs

These are the Watchkeeper series of Tactical UAVs.  Larger than the man portable systems but still smaller than the larger MALE (medium Altitude Long Endurance) systems the TUAV call is typically designed for Artillery spotting and local recce.

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There are actually two airframes that carry the Watchkeeper programme name:

  • The first was an almost stock model of the Elbit Hermes 450 (H450).  Operated by the Royal Artillery, the main differences from the stock model were internal, mostly navigation and targeting system related.  Which for the purposes of ArmA make no difference at all.  So we get a two-for-one.  A British Army Version as well as a RES/OPFOR version too.
  • The second was the Watchkeeper 450 (WK450).  This was a redesigned platform made to the UK’s specific requirements.  Visually the Watchkeeper differs from the Hermes by having a lower wing and a Synthetic Aperture Radar turret mounted in the front of the airframe and the Optical turret located at the rear behind the main landing gear.  There is also a small difference in fuselage diameter and shape.

Watchkeeper 450

These are actually renders of the older model.  The wingbox has since been replaced with a better and more accurate one.

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Hermes 450

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Watchkeeper 450 flanked by two H450

WK450 flanked by two H450

The Watchkeeper programme was intended to replace the much older and less capable Phoenix Drone system.  Officially the Phoenix was said to perform well but its crews christened it the “Bugger off drone” or something more, colourful depending on the mood of the operators.

Pheonix and a sometimes a ball of flames

Pheonix UAV

In 2006 some of the UKF guys and I went to a British Army Open day at the now demolished Chelsea Barracks.  We spent the day geeking out on all the kit.  One bit of which was a Phoenix.  The crew of which were really helpful and a damn good laugh.  They were happy to share stories of driving all over the place looking for missing drones or of irate land owners demanding, “they come and get their toy plane out of his field”.  And explaining the unusual recovery methods and situations.  eg, 20ft up a tree, in a pond, broken into a thousand pieces etc.

                 It was a bloody good day out.  Even if Messiah did lose his camera in the pub after.

Launched from the back of a specially adpated truck, the Pheonix had the advantage of operating from unprepared areas close to the battlefront but this was a necessity rather than by design.  It simply did not have the range and endurance of modern RPAS.  Nor could it land and be turned around quickly.  

Pheonix Operating unit

The typical Pheonix operating group was 12-16 men.  A launcher, generator trailer, Antenna/Datalink trailer, Command/Operator Shelter Vehicle and at least one or more 110 GS Landrovers or a similar recovery vehicle. 

'Landing' was by parachute, which flipped the vehicle upside down to protect the sensor pod. Utilising a frangible hump on the back to protect the airframe on impact.  And typically trashing the tail on contact with the ground.  In the lucky event of the chute opening properly.

Once "landed" the recovery team would have to find the drone, man handle it onto the cradle and partially dis assemble it before returning to the launcher and in very rare circumstances "refurbing" it in the field for its next flight.   I've been assured this did not happen very often if at all. 

You can really see why the Royal Artillery wanted a reliable and modern replacement so badly.

The Watchkeeper and the Hermes can operate from semi-prepared strips, roads and flat areas quite easily and unlike the Pheonix can operate for extended periods of time with a range of 300km and endurance of 20+ hours.

The amount of deployed equiment is also reduced.  Operating typically from airfields or prepared Forward Operating bases both the H450 and WK450 benefit from a simplified supply chain.  Each system can be operated from the same command and control shelter.  More than one airframe can also operated from the same hub.  Maintenance including Spares and repairs are largely modular making in theatre maintenance much easier.

The shelters etc  will make an appearence in game with the drones themselves. including the other supporting equiment such as the MAGIC ATOL landing system and datalink antennas.

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The shelters are all modelled and are in the paint shop.  I have modelled in the interiors but I need to work out how to make them more of a practical option rather than just set dressing.  I may stop short of making the full transit containers for them but the idea is that you will have assets that can be destroyed by opfor that will affect your ability to operate UAVs in your missions.

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H450 came into limited service in 2007

Watchkeeper, in the guise of the H450 came into limited service in 2007 ending the service life of the Phoenix.  During operation in Afghanistan eight British Hermes 450s were lost for various reasons. And as with any new system, the programme has had more than a few bumps along the way.  Cost increases, technical problems, Politics, Pilot shortages, poor weather you name it.  It caused problems. The cost has grown significantly over time too. A prototype WK450 was also lost at a key point in the project schedule during a very hard landing at Parc Aberporth causing a lot of embarressment and red faces as well as a further delay to an already over running programme.

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Originally the French government was keen to buy the Watchkeeper, indicating that they would share some of the development costs at the start of the project.  This evaporated much like their interest in the HMS Queen Elizabeth variant, PA2 with the UK MoD fronting 100% of the development.  Unlike the PA2, they approached the UK MoD again in 2014 with an RFI (Request For Information) only to later select the solely French made SAGEM Patroller.  Arguably a more expensive and less capable system.

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In August of the same year the WK450 became operational and was deployed in Afghanistan for the first time to operate alongside the existing H450 platforms, providing force protection and target cueing for the RAF MQ-9 Reapers as well as mortar and ground based Force Protection units.

The Watchkeeper 450 is likely to continue in service for the next 20 years at least.

Lesson over for today.  Tune in next week for something completely different.

Rock

Rock

Guess Who September 2017Every time I do one of these “Guess whos” I end up dropping a clue that gives it away.   I’m going to have toughen up.  I definitely made this one too easy dropping that last hint.  Siddy, didn’t know about this aircraft and so asked for a “RKSL history lesson” so here we go… if you aren’t interested there are pretty pictures too.

May I present the A-12 Avenger II.  This is one of the most controversial and interesting aerospace projects of the last 30 years.  It’s one of the few 80’s era Stealth programmes that came out of the Black world and into the White, public view.  It’s been the subject of several books and in the Defence Procurement Industry it’s held up as a perfect example of mismanagement.  It’s also responsible for ending the careers or more than a few managers, business men, lobbyists and the odd US Senator.

A-6E Intruder Replacement

Intended to be the replacement for the A-6E Intruder if it had continued into production it would have given the USN a stealthy strike platform to massively exceed the USAF’s F-117A combat capability.  The A-12 was a subsonic aircraft capable of carrying internal weapons but unlike the F-117A, the Avenger II was fitted with radar and was capable of air-to-air combat.

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“Aircraft that never flew”

The A-12 has been one of my favourite “Aircraft that never flew” projects for a very long time.  Personally, I have always had a soft spot for unique and exotic aircraft.  When I worked at Bae Eurofighter my boss gave me a book for my birthday many years ago; “The 5 Billion Dollar Misunderstanding: The Collapse of the Navy's A-12 Stealth Bomber Program” by James Perry Stevenson.  The A-12 Programme much like the Nimrod MR4 project and the Nimrod AEW3 before it was marred by spectacular cost over runs, design changes and incredibly bad mismanagement.  So much so that the cancellation of the programme resulted in a reform of the US Procurement system and the end of several high-power people from the halls of the Pentagon.

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Stealthy Strike Platform

Carrying a wide variety of ordinance, the A-12 was primarily a subsonic carrier based strike aircraft just like the A-6 it was designed to replace.  It was subsonic and had two missile bays intended for Short or Medium Range Air-to-Air missiles and two larger “bomb” bays that could house up to 6000lbs of ordinance on four stations.  Two of which were intended for, but not limited to, AMRAAMs.  There was also facility to attach two external pylons; mainly designed to carry fuel tanks but also capable of carrying 2500lbs of weapons on each station. Giving a max payload of just over 11,000lbs.

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A-6E Intruder Replacement

All up, this wasn’t quite the same punch as the A-6E (18,000lbs) but the A-12 was much Stealthier and therefore able to penetrate further into enemy airspace undetected.  Making the Avenger a perfect “First day of War” aircraft capable of exploiting its Anti-Radiation capability to remove the threat of enemy SAMs from the battlefield.  The exact same mission the F-117A was designed for.  

Just as a bit of trivia: The A-12’s cancellation in 1991 led to Lockheed proposing a Navalised F-117 to the USN in 1993 -  The design itself being quite a radical difference to the existing F-117A.

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UAV and UCAVs

What makes the Avenger particularly interesting to me is not only the unusual shape of the airframe, but the technology that came from it.  If you look carefully you can see the A-12 design influences in later aircraft.  There is the also the uncanny similarity to the large number of UAV and UCAVs we are now starting to see come into the light.  The design and development work done on the A-12 wasn’t really wasted.  It spun off into many other projects and most notably the later models of the F-18 series benefited from the Cockpit design improvements born from the Avenger II project.  There were also composites manufacturing techniques developed together with new and different Radar Absorbent Materials (RAM) that changed the US Aircraft industry permanently.

x32_08.jpgAnother point of trivia.  The XF-32 JSF contender actually used the same type of structural composites developed for the A-12.  Patents for which Boeing acquired when McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing in 1997.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mockups

The A-12 sadly only ever made it to full scale mockup stage. In the age before full scale 3D CAD modelling there were several versions of the cockpits made to help with ergonomics and development and PR.  The cost of building a special hanger and creation of these mockups was also a major feature of the subsequent investigation into the excessive spending.  Something McDonnell Douglas were very heavily criticised for.

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Back to the Games.

I made the first A-12 model in the OFP era.  And again, in ArmA1 and 2.  Resulting in a ‘meh’ model and a complicated mess of scripted weapons bays and poor textures.   The older game engines aren’t as friendly as A3 is today. (and A3 isnt *that* friendly).  

Despite what appears to be a fairly simplistic shape, like many other stealthy planforms it’s a pain in the arse to model properly.  Since the A-12 never made it into the air there really isn’t a huge variety of reference pictures out there.  Without decent references, its actually quite a difficult shape to make and it look good.  Fortunately, I stumbled upon some of the production drawings on http://www.aerospaceprojectsreview.com

Iif you are into Space and aviation History its worth spending some time browsing the site.  It’s really interesting.  Scott – the author – has some brilliant sources and sells some really good high res and vellum prints of aerospace design blueprints. (I’m not on commission Just a huge fan.)

The current model is probably the 5th or 6th version of the model but represents about 12 attempts to get it in game and working.

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There still a lot of details to do.  Textures to polish, Instruments to finish, HUD and MFD work.  Oh and lots and lots of Baking.

Crashing on Tonoa

So I’ve been somewhat successful.  The beta is ingame.  There is still quite a bit of texture work to do and I’ve got a tonne of work to do with the Air Weapons pack too.  So, we are making good progress.  And despite crashing on Tonoa so often that I’ve removed about 20% of the tree coverage the flight model and weapons delivery development is proceeding well.

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Oh yeah.  Have I mentioned that I really hate the PhysX implementation on planes.

Have fun,

Rock

17 Sept 17.

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