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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

ArmA3’s underwater features have always seemed a bit of an oddity to me.  At release Bohemia made a big noise about being able to swim, dive and SDVs etc.  But nothing was really made of it and the community has never embraced it very much either.  Sure, there has been some subs but no one seemed to use them.  Due to the game engine limits, they really aren’t practical either.

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Size does matter

So, I thought I’d have a proper look at the capabilities and limitations.  Leaving the actual model aside for a moment, it was the limitations that I wanted to get a grasp of.  For those that don’t know ArmA has a geometry limit

  • 50m x 50m x ?m (x,y,z)  No object can exceed this if it has a roadway lod. 
  • 64m x 64m x ?m - If it doesn’t have a roadway.

BUT!  In some cases, it seems you can get even longer providing it’s not as wide.  For unknown reasons volume comes into play.  I don’t know how or why but it does.

No solid rules in ArmA modding guys :P

Moving on, the best OPFOR Sub that fits that statement (and the IAP requirements) seems to be the “Kilo” class sub.  It’s 74m long, 9.9m at the beam (widest point on the hull) and thanks to the quirkiness of ArmA3’s game engine is modelled as a single piece and is completely solid in game.

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Why Submarines?

For my IAP project I wanted a to have a hidden threat to shipping, a way to lob missiles onto ground targets without being seen and generally cause havoc.  So, torpedoes and sub launched cruise missiles are going to be on the cards at some point.

This in game version of the Kilo, is armed with the Russian Type 53-65 Torpedo and the 3M54 Klub Land attack missile.

PR_Kilo WIP2.JPG

A limited mixed load should help with balance.  The real sub can carry 18x 533mm weapons or missiles.  If you assume a load out of 12 Torpedoes and 6 Land Attack Missiles that should be realistic for a full war time load…?  Overkill?  Not sure yet.

PR_Kilo WIP.JPG

But does it sink?

Just like the Vanguard class subs the Kilo is still too large to sink using the stock controls.  Simply put the game engine just doesnt liek any subs larger than the SDV.  So as with the larger subs I'm going to give it some scripted assistance.  Which to be honest I think will be much more fun to use.

'Rig for Submerged running!'

'Blow All ballast'

'Dive planes to 10 degrees'

'Make revolutions for 5 knots'

C'mon you just read that in Sean Connery's voice didn't you!  Hunt for red October: ArmA Edition anyway?

Collaboration

A few people that know me well enough know that I hate writing configs and I can’t write scripts well enough to do that much beyond the basics.  So I’ve teamed up with someone else to do a trade models for coding skills.

I’m going to let him out himself, but the end intent for him is to provide a naval weapons/anti-submarine package that addon makers can eventually incorporate into their own addons.  So, the Kilo sub will not only be released un the RKSL/IAP tag but it will also see Steam release via my new partner.

Should be good.  I’m excited anyway.

More later.

Rock

PR_Kilo WIP1.JPG

Rock

Its many, many, weeks since I started this project and now it’s finally starting to move over to Object Builder.  But honestly, it’s still not even close to getting in game.  I can’t tell you how much of a struggle it’s been to get this far.

But the biggest problem is with time and motivation.  People complain about being teased and “oh why don’t you complete X”.  And all I can assume is that they’ve never tried to make anything more than a box. If they even tried at all.  Try committing 20-30+ hours a week  ontop of a job, household chores and some level of (none internet enabled) social life.

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When you sit down and start to work on something like this it doesn’t actually hit you just how big a job it is until you get into it.  Once the basic structure is done you start to look at what you are missing.  Its then that the detail that you need to add that actually jumps out at you.  Especially when you look at the real thing then look at your own model.  Its odd things like pipes, light fittings, cabinets. All the things you ignore in daily life just because they are always there.  Remove them and you suddenly notice and it makes a space feel empty and dead without them.  Then suddenly you keep finding some little detail that you need to make then another and another.  It does get repetative and kind of depressing.   At some point you have to find something else to do to bring yourself out of the cycle of grinding out UV maps and textures.  Moving the big stuff into Object builder is that for me.

Textures arent final!

The textures shown are just place holders.  Don't judge yet.  I've not really attempted to paint everything at this stage since the UV layout and texel count are changing all the time.  My 'normal' work flow on this job has been thrown out of the window many weeks ago. After I made the basic hull I began focusing on features as shown in earlier updates, the CWIS and the Deck crane etc.   But then i realised I was going to have to re-visit them to make sure they all fitted in to the hull's scaling and colours etc.  So I've decided to go big first and then return to features.  This will mean I get the Hull and interior done and unwrapped.  Then I will detail it.  Then return to make hi-poly/res models to properly texture, bake and create decent materials for the final product.  It has been a completely messed up process so far but I am learning new things.  And re-learning more than a few things I had forgotten over time.

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Go Big or Go Home!

As of last night, there is 133,696 faces on the model in OB.  This does not include the interior and more than half the detailing.  The final figure is probably going to pass 280,000.  Which is a lot but if you assume a lot of the recent planes when loaded up are 28,000-32,000 faces each is really only 10 planes.  The killer, which shouldnt be a surprise to any addon maker, is the anchor chains.  They are too big to use a texture trick, and too much of a feature to ignore them.  But they do take nearly 17,000 faces.  When you add over a kilometer of railings, post as well these things do add up really quickly.  

Now might be a good time to invest in that new GPU you've been thinking about...

lpd_ob_02.jpg

It’s at this point you realise that an obsession with detail may not be the best path to take.  Before anyone panics too much I will LoD the hell out of this too to ensure the best performance I can.

I really do miss the Ducks.  So simple by comparison.  The Albion class will be:

  • Static – its just too big to be anything else given the limitations of the game engine.
  • Made up of 4 blocks, each configured as “class house” to enable ladders lights etc
  • Armed with
    • 2x CWIS (more on that in a bit)
    • 2x 30mm Cannon
    • Numerous 7.62mm GPMG mounts
  • Carrying:
    • 4x LCVP mk 5 – two configured for ViV and 2 for personnel only.
    • 2x LCU mk10 – ViV with some personnel capacity
    • 2x RHIBs
    • Mexefloat  rafts

Curse of the Real World

In nearly every project I've ever worked on, in this community or in the real world the requirements change.  One thing that is guarenteed to happen is that at the moment you think you have a good accurate model.  And I do mean the exact moment you sit back and say to yourself, "I'm proud of that".  Some b@#$%£* points out that its isnt actually correct anymore.   In this case, a really nice person (yes that is sarcasm), told me that the Royal Navy in Albion's recent refit had replaced the Goalkeeper CWIS with the Phalanx.  I really liked my Goalkeeper model.  They also swapped out the main radar and a whole raft of other changes.

C4xIOl4W8AA3n5l.jpgC8KquYaUQAAkmXP.jpg

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You can imagine, I'm thrilled.  Not only does it replace the CWIS but parts of the super structure have to be remade!

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! 

Okay so its not that bad.  More additions than huge alterations but it was a pain in the arse.  I will probably release the Bulwark with the Goal keeper and and the Albion with the Phalanx.  But the in-game reality isnt that different.

Command & Control, Logistics

I’ve not really attempted to do much regarding the config yet, but I do intend on making the ship as practical as the game engine will allow.  This includes leveraging the radar capabilities and attempting to make the LPD a floating command post for all the Milsimers out there.  The model does feature a C&C compartment.  Which If I can get my head around the radar and some scripting should morph into something usefull ingame.

I am also planning to create a series of resupply objects, material and weapons/ammo crate that can be loaded onto the HAM Trucks, LCU and LCVPs, even moved onto the deck and sling loaded,  that will allow you to move your stores ashore to establish a base and re-supply from the ship as an when needed.

lpd_ob_09.jpg

Progress of a sort.

Right at the start I said this was going to be a long job.  I didn’t realise how difficult it would be either.  The technical side isn’t too hard.  But the LPD is pushing the limit of what the game engine can handle.  It turns out its pushing my patience too.

lpd_ob_04.jpg

I’ve had to re-build and re-map the Hull three times.  I don’t actually have decent hull reference so everything is guesstimated.  Which the Engineer in me hates.  I have photos and a really low res drawing but no proper drawings so not everything wanted to fit together.  Eg the LCVs on the davits.  The deck was too narrow on the first build.  Meaning you couldn’t get to the LCVP to deploy them let alone get in.

lpd_ob_03.jpg

So, after a few weeks of frustration and no social life at all; I’m just focused on getting the external structure complete and then I’ll return to the interior spaces.  But there is still a long way to go and a lot of detail to make.

Wish me good luck.  I am going to need it. ;)

Rock

 

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Rock

ident.jpgYet another quick update.  Ok so it’s not so quick and it’s not exactly what I was planning on talking about.  This was going to be about helicopters.  According to the plan, it should be about the helicopters but when I sat down to write it there simply wasn’t much interesting to write about.  Simply put, things are proceeding slowly.   They just arent visually interesting.  Unless you want to know about hitpoints, rvmats and config settings.

Woe is me.

I’ve had some problems with my main PC recently, three hard drives dying one after another.  Had to swap out the motherboard too, headset died, driver issues all sorts plaguing me.  I’ve still got one bug that I just can’t shift.  Random lock up – everything freezes and there is no coming back.  You have to reset and it leaves nothing in the event logs.   So, you can imagine, confidence that the system won’t just die on me when I’m baking or just modelling something isn’t too high.  Progress has been slowed.  

But things are moving.  The helos will follow soon enough. 

  • The LPD is still causing me no end of grief.  Scripts, alignment, poly counts, proxies, damage simulation.  Oh, woe is me, just don’t even go there. 
  • Typhoon is paused while i sort out the Air Weapons - more on that below.
  • Helos are a bit tedious - all the unseen slog of damage, rvmats and texture tweaking.
  • And a lot of other stuff.

Hawks are flying

So recently, I’ve been playing around with the Hawk T1A.  Mainly because I had reached a point with the Typhoon that i didnt want to mess with the model and setup.  It became obscenely complicated because of the pre-Jets DLC menu system I'd been developing I didn't want to deal with untangling all the bits while I tried to work out the new features.  So the Hawk T1A has become my testbed for the new feature set.

Hawk.jpg

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Success, mostly

In this we have Success!  Woohoo.  If you aren’t a modder yourself you probably aren’t aware of some of the issues aircraft modders have been facing.  The physX on the planes is a pain in the arse.  The majority of people I’ve spoken too are having problems with it.  Using Firewill’s tutorial doesn’t seem to help either.  Mad things happen to the Hawk and others when I try to use it.  I must be missing something but no one I know has got it working properly yet. 

I’ve had some ‘fun’ with the ejection seat setup too.  Attempting to follow BIS’s setup didn’t work.   

Spinal Compression?Being Pushed right back into the seat

First it was, "there is no seat".  Then we had, "We have a seat but no pilot".  Then we had "Spinal comression, my head is under my arse" (No jokes please) and finally we had sucess, albeit pressed a bit too far into the seat.  Eddie aka WLD427 managed to sort it out for me in the end.  As well as some problems with the ADEN 30 mm cannon pod on the Hawks.  It proved a very frustrating setup but satisfying in the end.   Without his help, I’d have gone back to making Rubber Ducks.  It was just that frustrating.

Down the Rabbit hole

But it has led me down a huge rabbit hole or Air Weapons.  I can’t tell you how much of a surprise this has been.  Messing around with the Jets DLC has shown me that I needed to re-think some of my addons.   Especially the weapons use.  Then setting up the Hawk to use the new pylon system just pulled the rug out from under me.  I’ve had to re-work and re-config all my weapons and make pylons, racks and rails for them.  Given I had over 150 items in the pack to start with I now have 189.  Some of which – like the rocket pods – I’m just going to have to remake.  Sounds like fun doesn’t it.

RKSL Air Weapons AAMs for v3.100

Given the Air Weapons pack is common to 80% of the addons sat in testing folder and since I haven’t yet find a way around actually doing the work properly.  (Although, If I’m honest I’ve tried) ; I need to sort the pack out first.  before trying to add the pylons setup to everything else.

  Procrastination is a true artform when done properly.

AIM9M and AIM-132 ASRAAM

And with that insightful note.  I leave you be.

Think of me sloggin through thousands of lines of config setting up all the weapons.  Lots and lots of weapons...

Have fun because one of us needs to.

Rock

15 Aug 2017

 

Rock

Ok so it seems some people are still peed off at me for the Landing Platform Duck April fools Joke.

L14-HMS-Albion-insignia-003.jpg  L15-HMS-Bulwark-insignia-002.jpg 

I say that because I'm hearing stories that several groups mistook it for a real LPD and wanted to add it to their mod pack.  And when they found out it was a 40m long Rubber Duck they got quite upset.

Very upset apparently.  So then came the nasty stories..."There is no LPD.  Hes not making one..." you get the picture.  So here I am beavering away in my dimly lit office working on creating phantoms of my imagination.  Which is pretty much the only true part of the story. The 'phantom' part anyway ;)

You see I'm having to make up a lot of the internal structure of the Albion Class ships due to lack of internal reference.  Now this isn't really a big deal and I'm not in the habit of compromising the UK's security so having a realistic internal layout wasnt ever going to be on the cards.  But it is becoming a bit of a challenge to make it feel realistic.   I have plenty of pictures of the Well Deck so thats not a problem.  The issue is getting you from the welldeck to the Heli deck and other key areas of the ship.  Flyco, the Bridge and CIC etc for Weapons Control and access to other features.  

L14-HMS-Albion-009a.jpg

A bit of history.

The Albion-class landing platform dock (known also as an "amphibious assault ship") was the newest type of amphibious warfare ship in service with the Royal Navy. The class consists of only two vessels, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark, ordered in 1996 to replace the ageing Fearless class. Both ships were built by BAE Systems Marine at the former Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering yard in Barrow-in-Furness. Albion was commissioned in 2003 and Bulwark in 2004. Each of the ships has a crew of 325 and can accommodate up to 405 troops. Thirty-one large trucks and thirty-six smaller vehicles and main battle tanks can be carried inside the vehicle deck. To disembark troops and vehicles, the vessels are equipped with eight landing craft.

   

 

The Albion class LPDs have a length of 176 metres (577 ft), a breadth of 28.9 metres (95 ft), and a draught of 7.1 metres (23 ft). They have a normal displacement of 14,000 tonnes (14,000 long tons; 15,000 short tons), 19,560 tonnes (19,250 long tons; 21,560 short tons) at full load and 21,000 tonnes (21,000 long tons; 23,000 short tons) when the dock is flooded. The ships have a crew of 325 and can accommodate up to 405 troops, including their vehicles and combat supplies, in overload conditions. 

The aft flight deck has two landing spots for aircraft the size of a Chinook, although it has no hangar or aircraft storage facility. Below the flight deck is the dock and vehicle deck. The latter has the capacity to hold thirty-one large trucks and thirty-six smaller vehicles or six Challenger 2 tanks and thirty armoured personnel carriers. The dock can hold four Landing Craft Utility MK10, each large enough to carry vehicles up to main battle tank size, which are then launched by flooding of the dock area. Four smaller LCVP MK5 that can carry thirty-five men or two light trucks are carried on davits, two each side of the ship's superstructure. Each ship also carries a fifty-two ton tracked beach recovery vehicle for assisting with landing craft recovery, as well as two tractors: one that can lay a track-way across a landing beach, and the second fitted with an excavating bucket and forks.

For defence against missile attack, the Albion class LPDs have two 30 mm Goalkeeper CIWSs mounted fore and aft on the superstructure and two 20 mm guns. Defensive countermeasures include the Outfit DLJ decoys, eight Seagnat radar reflection / infra-red emitting decoy launchers and a BAE Systems DLH off-board decoy. 
 

Planned Features of this Addon

  • Placeable Static Ship 176m LongDR140027015.jpg
  • It will NOT be drivable.
  • 2x Goal Keeper CWIS  (Same cannon as an A10!)
  • 2x Oerlikon 20 mm/85 KAA on a GAM-BO1 mount (So I'm told)
  • Various mounted 7.62 GPMG Mounts
  • Well deck.
  • Dock side vehicle ramp.
  • Dockside Personnel ramp.
  • Enterable Interior
    • Storage Areas
    • Breifing Room
    • Action Information Centre aka CIC
    • Bridge
  • 4x Deployable LCVP mk5 Landing Craft.
  • PhysX compliant
  • Large Helideck
  • Possibly a working deck Crane*
  • Possibly a working Overhead Welldeck crane*

*Dependant on a functional crane script solution.  I have an old one but ive not really tested in a while.  One of the many hurdles to overcome at a later date.

So with the advent of the Jets DLC sensor upgrade I'm also thinking about Radar...Air Defence and game play.  I'm really at an early stage in the config.  Only just a basic prototype really but i have some grand plans for the enhancements the Helo and Jets DLC bring to the table.  More on that another time.

Status and Progress

The original LPD model was really only ever 60% there.  I made it in the ArmA1 era so thats circa 2007/2008 and because of the limitation of that game engine (Poor geometry interaction) I didnt really feel it was really worth the investment in time back then.  it made cameo appearences in a couple of the RKSL Youtube vids of he time.  The best view was in the "Puma HC1 with DRS" video.  If you take a look you'll see it wasnt really anywhere near complete back then and It hadn't really progressed much until recently.

In the middle of March 2017 I went looking for the old model as a result of a conversation with some ArmA mates.  Now, the game engine has changed.  Polygon budgets for single objects have changed, we now have PhysX and the interaction of vehicle and object types becomes less of a problem... most of the time.  It seemed like a good time to revisit the model.  Not to mention with April 1st looming I got to finally - after 2 years of sitting on it - use the Landing Platform Duck model which is another story for another day.  

As is my usual habit, I picked up the old model and decided it was crap.  So I started remaking it.  (Hey, it has been nine or ten years since i first made it!)  Its still in pretty bad state but it is slowly coming together.  I had hoped to show you more actual pics but its not really at the stage I want to share.  Just yet anyway. Its is pretty ugly right now and doesnt look thats good.  But I have been making significant headway. Screenshots and renders really dotn do it justice. You can see that from the the image of the very sparse WIP Welldeck below.  There will be many more updates as time goes one.

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Looking Aft in the welldeck with the ramp up to the flight deck in the foreground.

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Early Version of the LPD interior.  You can see just how big the Welldeck and storage areas really are..

Landing Craft - LCVP Mk5

I've also made the LCVP this weekend which is a significant feature of the Albion class ships.

The LCVP is a landing craft used by Royal Marines. The craft's primary role is putting ashore men and equipment. The Royal Marines also use the LCVP as a patrol boat and is armed with 2x 7.62mm GPMGs. It can carry up to 35 fully-laden Royal Marines and their equipment.  Vehicles such as Land Rovers and Vikings can be carried and embarked by the Mk5 LCVP. The landing craft are usually stored on davits on on the sides of HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark.

LCVPs feature aluminium hulls and are powered by twin waterjets. Their design includes a rigid and enclosed windowed canopy. LCVPs have a ramp at the bow that lowers for rapid unloading. GPMGs can be mounted when needed.

During Operation Telic, the UK's invasion of Iraq in 2003, Royal Marines patrolled the waterways and marshes of the South in LCVPs (amongst other vessels). A tragic friendly-fire incident occurred when a LCVP operating along the Khawr Az Zubayr River, North of Umm Qasr, was mistaken for an Iraqi patrol boat and engaged by a 42 Commando Milan post, killing one Marine.

LCVP Mk5 Specifications

Engine:    twin waterjet diesel
Speed:    24 Kts - fully laden
Range:    210 nautical miles
Dimensions:
Length : 15.7m
Width : 4.3m
Payload    3 crew + 35 fully-equipped Royal Marines + vehicle and trailer or 6+ tonnes of stores

 

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So thats it.  More will follow closer to release or when I feel its relevant.

Other things are progressing.  Several addons are edging closer to escape...sit tight and keep an eye out.

And I'll leave you with a little bit of advice:

"If you can't say anything nice (or constructive), don't say anything at all."

Have fun.

Rock.

Rock

HAWK T1A GunsightIts August Bank Holiday monday in the UK and for once its not raining!

But as per tradition I am working on addons... while drinking...BBQ Chicken and or steak may be involved later.

I don't know how many people will know or even care but the Hawk T1A / Mk60 series aircraft doesn't actually have a HUD like other aircraft.  Its only got a gunsight.  My research suggests that its a Ferranti Type 'F'-95.

So its really just an aiming point.   Its going to be a bit f a challenge to setup I think.  Atleast when it comes to the non-RAF loadouts on the Mk60 series.

"Pretty in Pink"

My god daughter was over today and here first response when seeing the pics it was its looks pretty in pink.  She is eight and at that stage where everything is pink.  Her bedroom looks like a pink paint bomb testing ground.

The joy of unwrapping and materials.

Hawk cockpit panels.png

The pink is the base material colour, it makes it easier to find the unwrapped and untextured parts.

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Part way through the job

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After adding some of the labels.

Hawk cockpit 1.png

Cockpit "tub" bump mapping rivets.  I'm not that keen that i need to count rivets and model them all individually.

 

Hawk cockpit 2.png

 

These were all taken a few days ago. today's efforts were more focused on drinking the beer but i've been unwrapping switches and drawing labels so perhaps not as visially interesting.

Have fun.

Rock

28 August 2017

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.

a12-cpit5.JPG


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.

4e09e09f4f742a80704d10dae433a96d.jpgFAGijlw.jpg

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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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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

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.

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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. 

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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.

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Coming soon to a British Forces Faction near you.

 

Rock

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.

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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

Chengdu J-20. I've made some assumptions based on what little is known about it. So the bays are inspired by the F-22, which seems logical given other similarities and rumours of FB-22 espionage etc.

I'm still not 100% about its actual role in the PLAF ie Fighter, Interceptor etc. But having actually built it now and scaled from the estimates in the press and various weapons etc I'm leaning towards the Air Superiority/Stealthy Long Range AWACs killer role touted by some. I don't think its a "Stealthy F111" type, the internal bays really aren't big enough in my opinion. You can see that from the last pic with the AMRAAMs and AIM9s. But I could be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time.

 

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Rock

As I said before I've been busy even though ive spent most of the last week in hospital getting poked and prodded. I've had the time to make some new stuff and resurrect and complete some old projects:

This is what we call a "long term project". It development time will be significant and it is dependent on other scripted systems. So dont expect this to appear immediately.

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Rock

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They arent much more than UNN has already shown but it does illustrate that all the features on the Display do actually work. Its not just set dressing. And unlike the stock BIS UAV interface this allows you to actually lock the cursor then adjust it properly onto target.

The display layout is modelled on a Reaper UAV but in theory you could adapt the layout to any system you like.

Eventually, we hope that it can be adapted to simulate Laser Targeting pods on RKSL aircraft like the Tornado and Typhoon too.

Rock

Just as a quick follow on to the UNN's comments about the UAV system:

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There are also a number of improvments over the BIS UAV system:

  • You can actually lock the laser on to a target, then fine tune that lock. (No more knocking the mouse and losing the target)
  • The ability to get proper coordinates from the display of both your own and the targets positions.
  • Set custom waypoints with altitude.
  • You have the ability to take control and fly yourself if you so choose. (PLANNED)
  • the ability to set Laser 'frequencies' so that multiple laser designators can be used in the game area. Great for large MP games with multiple teams.
  • NO more dive bombing onto targets.
  • NO more target obsessed AI pilots that wont disengage.

And quite a few other things...

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