Flanker 2.0 – Hints and Tips
SSI’s Flanker 2.0 is an amazingly detailed recreation of a classic Russian fighter. Flanker 2.0 maintains all the hallmarks of its remarkable predecessor and adds to the mix a graphical makeover that rivals the visuals found in commercial military flight simulators. But don’t let Flanker 2.0’s pretty face fool you, inside that flashy exterior lies a complex simulation where your continued survival is quite often an extremely daunting task.
This guide will focus on air to air combat techniques because establishing local air superiority is the first step in winning the war in Flanker 2.0. Local air superiority is gained and maintained by performing two steps; early threat detection and reduced time to kill. Simply, the first step is finding the enemy. The second step is then dispatching those enemy planes quickly.
Know Your Flanker
Before discussing strategies, lets review some pertinent information about our Su-27 (or Su-33) and how it compares to the competition. The fundamental design philosophy used in the developing the Flanker (and most of the “former” USSR aircraft designs) stressed airframe and powerplant performance, while maintaining a minimalist approach to the aircraft’s avionics suite. Simply stated, the Su-27 is a fast, maneuverable and very “MANUALLY” operated radar fighter. Because of this, you will find that a programmable joystick and throttle are invaluable when playing Flanker 2.0.
Although not a model solution for HMI (Human Machine Interface) technology, the Su-27 possesses several notable advantages over it’s western counterparts. These are characteristics that you must know and exploit in order to consistently send the opposition down in flames.
Compared to the other advanced fighters in the game, the Flanker is the superior performer (if only by a slight margin in some cases) in thrust to weight, maximum turn rate, and low speed – high AOA maneuverability. This provides Su-27 pilots with an inherent advantage. Before you start running head first into the threat, keep in mind this old fighter pilot saying, “a hamburger in any bun is still a hamburger.” This wise adage translates into the following bit of advice – no matter who has the superior performing aircraft, winning a fight will always be a function of pilot skill.
The onboard targeting suite of the Su-27 includes a Helmet Mounted Sight (HMS) system. The HMS allows Flanker pilots to lock on and shoot missiles off aircraft boresight without a radar lock. The advantages of this become evident when it comes to performing our second objective – reducing time to kill. Using the HMS, missile lock can be accomplished quicker and without having to maneuver until the intended target is in the HUD field of view. Anytime the enemy is within visual range (inside 10 km) have the HMS called up and operating.
The last advantage worthy of mention is the Su-27 ‘s Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) capability. Historically, former Soviet Union Frontal Aviation has always been very reliant on Ground Controlled Intercept (GCI) and your aircraft is no exception. AWACS, the modern version of GCI, beams the entire air picture (both friendly and enemy unit) into your aircraft and displays it on your radar scope. When available, it is the preferred method of detection.
Flanker 2.0’s padlock system appears to be designed to accentuate the high fidelity found in many other aspects of the game. The end result is that the padlock view system is not automatic and relies on the pilot to look around with the view keys to find the intended target. After the target is found, the player must press another button to engage the padlock. And irrespective of how good your eyes are (in the game) it simply will not function inside of 10 Km.
Unfortunately nothing is perfect and yes, your Flanker has it’s fair share of shortcomings. Some of the bad news is a result of meticulous modeling on the part of the developers. These issues are the same issues that real Flanker pilots must face. The rest of the problems arise as a result of the way SSI implemented certain simulation features. Either way, they are shortcomings that you as a Flanker 2.0 pilot must deal with.
Like all high tech machines, your Su-27 is prone to break down every once in a while. You will also find that these “random” failures tend to affect the system you rely on the most. Therefore, don’t get too attached to that radar you are using right now to target enemy aircraft, because in the next clock cycle of the computer it could be gone. Be familiar with the operation of all your onboard weapon systems so that when the inevitable happens you can flex comfortably to an alternate system and continue the intercept.
Our description of the Flanker touched on the idea of a “manually” operated aircraft. For Flanker 2.0 pilots this means several key presses are usually required to attain the desired results. Switching from one search mode to another is not a single key press. When you enter the new mode you may to activate the new sensor in order to use it, which is another keystroke. Extra key strokes aside, the real cost is the momentary loss of any situational awareness (SA) you just built up. When you switch search modes all of the airborne contact information displayed on your Multi-Function Display (MFD) will disappear (with the exception of AWACS datalink information). To keep this from happening to you, refrain from switching search modes unless absolutely necessary. The only reasons you should change modes should be; either the tactical situation dictates it (like dropping radar lock in order to pursue the contact with your IRST) or the system currently in use malfunctions.
Unfortunately, the Su-27 doesn’t have a “hot” gun. More succinctly, you can’t operate your gun in conjunction with any other weapons. The Flanker is a one weapon at a time type of affair. And when you “draw” your gun you will also loose some potentially critical flight related symbology on the Heads Up Display (HUD). The cannon should only be activated when the enemy is located in your forward windscreen and there’s a real chance to shoot at them.
This section concludes with a mention about the Cyrillic and metric units that former Soviet Union designed aircraft use. Players who want to reduce the already steep learning curve will select the “English” instrumentation option. There aren’t any options available to switch airspeed and distance units to nautical miles, and altimeter readings to feet, thus players need to do their own conversions. For a rough airspeed estimate in knots (nautical miles per hour) take the airspeed reading and divide by 2. Here’s an example; the HUD airspeed readout displays 700 kph so we estimate our airspeed (in knots) to be 350.
In reality our airspeed is around 378. The other important performance value we use when flying is the altitude readout. Another quick approximation formula is used for altitude, multiply the HUD readout by three. An example would be; the HUD altitude reads 900 meters. Apply our quick conversion and our estimated altitude is around 2,700 feet. The actual distance is 2,953 feet. Both formulas provide only a rough estimate, but they are quick and simple.
Thinking Like the Enemy
Your Flanker has many worthy opponents chomping at the bit to send you walking back home. Here is some intelligence about the enemy that will come in handy as you fight your way through what may seem to be an impenetrable presence.
The oppositions fighting ability is quite commendable, and even on modest AI settings you will probably find yourself quickly humbled by their superlative combat skills. The air to air pilots are schooled in Basic Fighter Maneuver (BFM) theory, and they have practiced what has been preached! All of their pilots are quite capable with a radar and will waste no time in finding you and locking you up. They also tend to fire their missiles at maximum range in order to utilize the advantage gained by early detection. This puts you immediately on the defensive. Once you are within the visual range of an enemy fighter (and have not approached by use of a “blind spot”) expect a grueling dogfight to the death — yours or theirs. And unlike you, the AI pilots don’t lose sight.
The enemy is not invincible and some of the characteristics that make them tough opponents can actually work against them. They always tend to shoot their radar missiles at maximum range and appear to only fire their gun when an 80% chance or greater exists for a hit. While maneuvering, the enemy will not make many BFM errors. They rely on you to do that for them — so don’t (more about how to actually do this in the 1 v 1 section). But sadly, the AI pilots tend to forget about the ground’s extremely high probability of kill (which is 100%, i.e. you hit the ground and you’re killed) and will regularly fly into the dirt when the fight gets low.
If you elect to try this little trick just be careful you’re not next in line, after the AI pilot, to try for the world’s lowest altitude record. Always remember this about the world’s lowest altitude record — it has been tied many times but has never been broken.
Two Versus Many
The enemy in Flanker 2.0 doesn’t always play fair and may try to overwhelm you with sheer numbers. Instead of flying blindly into the unknown, let’s find out where all these bad guys are, and take a first step toward gaining local air superiority. AWACS is the first choice for enemy target detection, assuming there is one available during the mission. The remote sensors aboard the AWACS provide a detailed picture of the current air situation and beam it directly into your cockpit. It is prudent to always check the AWACS screen prior to activating any onboard sensors.
The next best sensor is your radar. The radar does have some risk associated with it’s use. The benefits of radar are: it can rapidly build an accurate picture on your scope. It is your only onboard sensor that can effectively see beyond 50 km. Additionally, only the radar can be used for maximum range missile shots (either active or semi—active versions). The risk of using the radar is that whenever you use the radar the enemy will be alerted to your presence. To help maintain a “stealthy” approach do not engage TWS or attack mode of the radar until you are ready to shoot a missile.
Another onboard sensor is the Infra Red Search and Track set (IRST). The bad news is that it has a slow scan rate and shorter range. The good news is that the targets don’t know they are being monitored. In actual operation the IRST will typically detect fighter size targets (head on) at about 20 – 30 km. If a fighter—sized target is heading the other direction (tail on aspect) this range can extend to 25 – 40 km. If using the IRST alone, plan on it’s slower scanning rate and allow an extra 10 to 20 km range between you and the threat. This extra room will give the IRST enough time to build a picture before you are committed to engaging.
Combining this information, we can create a generic intercept timeline that should work for any air to air engagement. The sequence of events in our timeline won’t ever change, just the point at which you enter into it. The timeline will commence whenever the first step – finding the enemy has occurred.
Before going any further use the view keys and padlock key to scan the area directly around your aircraft. Make sure it is clear of enemy aircraft. And because the Flanker has a blind spot directly behind and below, turn your aircraft 45 degrees off of the current heading and perform one more check to cover that section of airspace aft and low of your jet that’s was previously hidden from your view. After the immediate area has been cleared, determine the number and disposition of the enemy forces beyond the visual range using an appropriate sensor (in order from best to worst; AWACS, radar, then IRST).
Decide if any of the bandit groups you found during the detection phase are an immediate threat to your aircraft – if they are, react to them immediately. Then analyze the remaining bandit groups and determine and target the “factor” group. “Factor” group refers to the highest priority group of bandit aircraft based on a combination of range, threat capability and your mission requirements. After determining which group is the “factor” group decide if a stealthy approach can be conducted or not. If the factor group is heading in your direction then use your radar. If you can fly to an abeam (from the side) or rear quarter entry then use a stealthy approach with your IRST. Anytime the bandit aircraft turn sharply in your direction and start heading toward you, assume they are wise to your approach and switch back to your radar.
To maximize the range and increase the probability of kill of your missile you need to be as high and as fast as practical when you pull the trigger. It also helps to point your aircraft at the intended target so that the missile has less work to do when it comes off the rails. If the intended target is “hot nosing” you (keeping their nose pointed at you) a missile shot when the “launch authorized” cue sounds will have a high chance of hitting it’s mark. But if the target appears to be maneuvering, hold the shot a little longer – until the range cue slides down to about 80% of it’s overall length. The 80% maximum range shot significantly increases the missile’s endgame maneuverability because the missile will have more energy (speed) when it finally reaches the target.
You have just launched a missile, now what? Think of this phase as a high—speed game of “chicken” whoever flinches first loses. Chances are the enemy has or will (very soon) fire a missile back at you. This is the decision phase because if you feel you won’t win this engagement – now is the time to run away. It is best to leave a bad situation than stay and get shot down. You can always turn back and try it again. If you feel that you have the drop on the enemy and want to support your missile until impact you can decide to stay. If we stay we must worry about evading their missile by performing some post launch defensive maneuvers.
Immediately after launch bring your throttle to idle and turn your aircraft to place the enemy contact on either side of your radar scope – be careful not to turn so far as to loose your radar lock. Simultaneously begin a rapid descent, but not more than 45 degrees nose down. Why are we doing all this? Take a note from your own aircraft, while in the descent look at your missile range cue and you will see that it is shrinking. If these maneuvers are done properly you may even lose the “launch authorized” cue.
The descent is a good time (especially if you know they shot at you) to make your Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) or jamming pod is turned on; expending chaff can be a good idea also. As long as the bandit aircraft keeps heading toward you, your previously shot missile is still within a valid engagement envelope. It should still guide all the way until impact! When your missile goes active (if it was an R—77 or R—27 with an active seeker) or impacts the target, resume your mission. If there are other bandits out there who may have fired at you or you are unsure, turn and run away at full power for maximum speed
One Versus One
The classic single plane versus single plane dogfight is another aspect of Flanker 2.0 that pilots will have to master. Whether the fight occurred as the result of a blown intercept or an intentional mission setup, your actions should be the same. Once you’re engaged, it’s a fight to the finish. As previously stated, the AI pilots in Flanker 2.0 are quite adept at BFM and will not make many errors. Defeating them requires that you make no mistakes.
If you have missiles and see the enemy, take a pre—merge missile shot. The HMS system is your primary tool for getting a missile to lock on pre—merge. Note that the enemy will be attempting to do the same thing to you. Unlike in BVR engagements, both of you are well within each other’s missile envelope and the IR seekers typically used need only an initial target lock on before firing in order to guide. Try to reduce your heat signature by killing the afterburner. Also be prepared to use flares if they decide to shoot. Fly directly toward the bandit to close the gap between you as soon as possible.
The forward quarter gun shot is the most dynamic type of shot you can take. A lucky shot can dramatically reduce time to kill, but the risk of a midair collision is enormous. The best course of action is to avoid the pre—merge cannon shot. Just prior to crossing, jink (a small rapid turn away and then a rapid turn back) away from the enemies nose in order to remain clear of their cannon.
As both aircraft approach the merge, check your airspeed. It should be around 1000 kph. If you are faster you may want to reduce power until you start your turn. If your airspeed is slower, monitor it closely during the initial turn to ensure you don’t bleed off too much. While the enemy is still in your forward windscreen, begin a maximum “g” turn toward them. This is a little fighter pilot trick we call “early turning.” The early turn yields a couple more degrees of turn advantage over the bandit. A skilled opponent will turn back into you nullifying the advantage, but most AI pilots in Flanker 2.0 will surrender them to you without a fuss.
Begin the fight by turning hard across the horizon. Do not let your airspeed fall to less than 675 kph. Although our target speed is 720 kph, in order to get a little more “bite” on the competition a small deviation is acceptable. Continue to watch the enemy as you settle into your maximum rate turn. Keep applying aft stick pressure until you reach target airspeed. While still applying pressure use the horizon to help control your speed. If you find your getting too fast raise the nose some. If you end up getting too slow, reduce back stick pressure and allow the nose to dip below the horizon slightly. Once airspeed is back to normal reset your turn to maintain target airspeed.
If you are performing the turn correctly your airspeed will be between 700 and 730 kph, your nose will be between 2 – 5 degrees nose down, the g force “graying out” effect will be getting very pronounced (assuming you have it turned on) and you will slowly be gaining angles across the circle on your adversary. The fight will continue down to the ground and if you have been diligent about flying your numbers, the enemy will be lower than you. When this happens, the bandit will be forced to either reduce their turn performance or fly into the dirt. If they fly into the ground – congratulations! If they decide to reduce their turn performance, the bandit will start rapidly moving across the canopy toward the HUD. When this happens select your gun, position yourself and shoot!