The Flare Path: Ace Academy Dropout

If it hadn’t been for my dodgy eyes, chronic kinetosis, tendency to daydream, and crippling fear of fear I reckon I would have made a superb fighter pilot. I’d have been the chap that was forever being called into the wingco’s office for a stern dressing-down. “Dammit Stone, that’s the third Mosquito you’ve written-off this week! If you hadn’t bagged 28 Fw 190s today and bullet-scrawled ‘Hitler has only got one testicle’ on the side of the Reich Chancellery during a daring but totally unauthorised raid on Berlin, I’d be handing you your discharge papers right now rather than this platinum DFC and £10 Harrods voucher.”

But it wasn’t to be. Instead, here I am sat in a small, sparsely furnished room, nibbling cold toast and writing about an intriguing multiplayer flight prospect called Combat Pilot.

If you’ve ever glanced up at a passing F-16, Su-27 or Eurofighter Typhoon and wondered if you could have cut it as a fighter pilot, this WIP oddity could be your best chance of finding out. ThunderHawk Studios, a developer established by peripheral crafters Mad Catz just over a year ago, are building a jet simulation that doesn’t just seek to mimic modern warbirds and their weapons, but also the long and gruelling process aspiring air warriors must go through to get their hot hands on the cool HOTASs of today’s fleetest flying machines.

I say “building a jet simulation” – strictly speaking, what the team are busy doing is fabricating bits that will, in time, be bolted to old friend FSX.

Basing your MP dogfighting/missile-loosing game on a sim with fewer battle honours than the Swiss Army, is, on the face of it, a tad perverse. VR Simulations might be well on the way to proving Microsoft’s sim can be adapted for aggro, but you can’t help but wonder if DCS World or the Strike Fighters engine wouldn’t have been a more natural fit.

Apart from the odd munition render, there’s little evidence of combat readiness in CP’s promotional material. What is conspicuous, is the emphasis the initial instalment of the sim (Flight Training Operations) will place on rigorous reality-based tuition and rank climbing. There are two career ladders on offer – squadron pilot and command pilot – and both plainly require serious levels of dedication.

While squadron pilots won’t have to qualify for IFR flight and can therefore sidestep training jaunts and check rides that teach and test instrument navigation and TACAN/ILS precision approaches, their promotional prospects stop at Major and they aren’t eligible to command squadrons. To gain the sim’s highest rank – 4-star general – a flier must be a command pilot with an astonishing 7000 online flying hours under his or her belt. Oh yes, they must also survive 4 years without a fatal prang.

Everything about Combat Pilot gives off the distinctive boot-polish-and-aviation-fuel aroma of an unusually strict and well-researched Virtual Airline or Squadron. Many will no doubt relish this rarefied atmosphere. How many will relish it enough to shell-out $50 for the initial membership package then $12 a month on subscription fees (of course, you’ll also need an install of Acceleration-augmented FSX) remains to be seen.

That starter package includes three trainers (a Texan II, T-38 Talon and T-45 Goshawk built for ThunderHawk by consummate aero-engineers A2A Simulations) and seven US base sceneries – all of which can be enjoyed offline. Decide not to extend your membership beyond the first ‘free’ month, and this core of hopefully high-quality content should help assuage any feelings of injustice.

In addition to the subscription, the devs are also planning to sell specially commissioned add-ons by MSFS add-on luminaries like Aerosoft, Razbam and Iris (who, incidentally are also lined-up to produce an F-15E, F-22 and F-14 for DCS World). It’s an audacious business model, but not so different from the one that seems to be working rather well for iRacing. The relatively high monthly cost and sad lack of Merlins and RAFish moustaches mean I doubt I’ll stick around long enough to make it to 2nd Lieutenant let alone General, but I wish this bally original sim experiment well, all the same.


Steel Beasts Set To Share Urban Jungle

I don’t know about you, but when I look down on my wargame warriors tramping through dusty Afghan villages or neat Dutch suburbs, I’m often struck by the bizarre absence of dusty Afghan villagers and neat Dutch suburbanites. The realism in realistic military titles frequently seems to stop at the garden/compound gate, a fact that makes a message I received from eSim this week all the more unexpected.

In addition to laying the foundations of a new engine, the makers of peerless modern armour sim Steel Beasts Pro Personal Edition, are currently building an update that will bustle with non-coms.

Studio director Nils Hinrichsen described a battle environment in which civilians dynamically stroll around towns and “civilian cars drive from one region to another based on the time of day. We want vehicles and people to find their way in complex villages where compound walls block line of sight and passage. We’ve made a lot of progress in these areas already, and I expect to see a lot more.”

“…the development goal is that the civilians will serve as ‘noise’ in a given scene making it less like a shooting gallery. In the past, if there was a hot spot in your thermal sights forward of friendly positions, you could be sure you’d spotted an enemy. Even if you couldn’t properly identify the target, you could squeeze the trigger secure in the knowledge you were helping to win the mission. That approach will no longer work”

“The changes will allow us to have armed civilians – irregular fighters. These may be allied to the player, or his enemies, or have a neutral attitude. Either way, the player must observe closely what these guys DO rather than just how they LOOK. Hopefully this will give people a small glimpse into the complexity of contemporary warfare. It’s one thing to read about it in newspapers and books, or see it in movies like Black Hawk Down. It’s quite another to actually experience it when you’re under pressure to make a decision, and NOT making a decision actually is a decision as well”

SBPPE’s civvies should start straying into firing lines early next Summer.


The Flare Path Foxer

FP calls crosswords ‘crasswords’. He’s adamant today’s premier puzzle solvers don’t need crutches like clues. 15 Flair Points to the de-foxers that prove him right.



  1. wodin says:

    Steel Beats is so expensive though and I here it’s a very “dry” sim…

    Best Tank sim I’ve played and oozes atmosphere is Steel fury and with all those Mods out there you’ll never run out of battles or tanks to control..Funny really as I’ve never been a fan of Tank Sims but Steel fury is the exception.

  2. darkmouse20001 says:

    If you did go down the route of trying to be a fighter pilot, you would probably have been made redundant shortly after receiving your fast jet wings (Whilst guys chopped from your course still have a job flying helicopters), bolting steel plates to the side of other steel plates, whilst waiting for your airline start date wondering where it all went wrong. I am a little bit bitter.

  3. zoombapup says:

    Tim Stone silly!

  4. The Tupper says:

    Tim Stone you are one crazy sonofabitch. I’m too old for this shit, myself, what with being two days from retirement and all.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Congratulations on your retirement! I don’t understand at all, however; surely retirement frees up time for more games, right? Right??*

      Relatedly, someone I hope doesn’t retire soon is Tim Stone. Because he writes such good articles. Yes.

      * Right???????**

      **You get the idea.

  5. inkreis says:

    Ad Foxer: There is a space in 4, isn’t it?

    • Tim Stone says:

      Not anymore!

      The fact I can’t count was probably another reason I never made it as a fighter pilot.

      • Elmar Bijlsma says:

        Well… if you are going to make a puzzle so fiendish that I do not even know where to begin, I can only retaliate by bringing up the improper spelling of IJmuiden. The IJ is a single letter.
        That will teach you not to leave us clues! ;)

        I can only make out the theme of interesting ordinance. *sob*

  6. Skabooga says:

    . . . a flier must be a command pilot with an astonishing 7000 online flying hours under his or her belt.

    Please tell me those are simulated hours and not real ones.

  7. inkreis says:

    Ad Foxer I got:
    1 London City
    2 Bomb
    3 Disney
    4 Flying Fortress
    6 Zeppelin
    7 Ijmuiden
    8 Orange Herald
    10 Fat Man
    11 Valiant
    12 Bockscar
    14 Upkeep
    15 Tallboy
    16 Nagasaki
    17 Dambuster (Lancaster would work too)
    18 Sorpe Dam
    19 Malden Island

    I have no idea about 20, but it should have something to do with the 9th RAF Bomber squadron.
    And I fullheartedly I capitulate before the “emtpies” 5, 9 and 13.

    Thanks for the entertainment!

    • inkreis says:

      Stupid me… just realized it had to be the obvious while making tea:

      5 Little Boy
      9 Enola Gay
      13 Hiroshima

  8. buzzmong says:

    I fancy playing one of those realistic flight sims.
    I don’t however think I’ll like it or play it more than a couple of times, so don’t want to pay for FSX and then the very expensive prices for them on top.

    If only I were rich and could just throw the money at it without caring.

    • Bonedwarf says:

      I hear good things about Flightgear, and that’s free. Could try that and get a taste for it.

    • cowthief skank says:

      You can download DCS World for free from their website (link to ) and you get an Su-25 to play with. If you enjoy it enough you can splash out on the A-10C, or Black Shark if helicopters are your thing, which are modules which plug into DCS World.

  9. Kevin says:

    You’re going to have to get back to us on Steel Beasts when that damned game is actually affordable.

    • JS says:

      It never will be. Keeping the price high is a deliberate decision from the developers, as Steel Beasts is not for everyone. If you’re not willing to pay the price for it, you are probably not interrested enough in a highly realistic armored vehicle combat simulation to enjoy it. It’s more of a tactical and procedural training simulator than a “game”.