The United Kingdom. Indonesia. Finland. Malaysia. Zimbabwe. What do these countries have in common with each other? Well, they may seem a little unconnected in the conventional sense, but one of the things that connects these powers is their use in some way or another of the BAE Systems Hawk aircraft. These powers have the Hawk's variants forming part of their air force, but their most prolific/prominent use is with the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom.
208 Squadron of the RAF still fly the Hawk variants (the T1 and the T1A) for use as advanced trainer aircraft for training pilots. As you will find out in the DCS Module of the same name that's under review here, the Hawk T.1A is more readily equipped for battle and as a result a little more versatile than its unmodified T1 sibling. The Hawk T.1A module for DCS World is definitely a simulation to have on your "have experienced" list for many reasons including its high level of detail, the excellent physical model, and the novelty of having flown a close-to-real-life simulation of such a great aircraft. It's also got an interactive cockpit, making it even more realistic a simulation than most.
What is DCS World?
If you have ever experienced a high-fidelity flight simulator such as Microsoft Flight Simulator X or the ultra-realistic X-Plane 10, then you'll likely know what to expect from DCS World. This piece of software is essentially a flight simulator framework that allows both its own developers Eagle Dynamics) and external ones to create high-fidelity flight simulation packages that come in the form of modules. There are many modules available for the DCS World framework, many from Eagle Dynamics themselves, but the Hawk T.1A Module for DCS world is the work of British company VEAO Simulations.
The Hawk T.1A Aircraft
It is fitting that a British company should be responsible for developing a high-fidelity simulation of a distinctly British aircraft. The parent model, the BAE Systems Hawk, is an advanced trainer aircraft (one that facilitates the training of pilots, and in this case, ones that are at the advanced level of training) - the T.1A is essentially just a modified T1.
Though all of the Hawk models (there are over ten of them in existence) are single-engine, jet-powered planes, the T.1A variant's modifications include the capacity to carry AIM 9-L Sidewinder Missiles (one on each wing) as well as the addition of an Aden gun pod. Such modifications allow the T.1A to act as a trainer aircraft as well as possess a level of agility and versatility that ensures it can be used as a low-cost combat aircraft. Perhaps most famously, the Red Arrow Aerobatics Team of the RAF fly modified versions of the T.1A that have the gun pod replaced with pods that carry diesel fuel and specially-prepared dye.
What you Get With the Hawk T.1A Module
Purchasing the Hawk T.1A module for DCS world will allow you to integrate the module into the main DCS World core framework. With the module you obviously get the Hawk T.1A flight simulation, currently a BETA model in most respects, but there are a few little extras as well. You'll get two training modules that take you through the basics of starting up the Hawk T.1A (you'll see below why this is a more complex procedure than some of the other aircraft of DCS World) as well as navigation when you're actually in the air.
In addition to the training missions you also get a number of so-called "Instant Action" quick-missions, which are essentially scenarios that put you immediately into a number of different situations. The scenarios for the T.1A range from a cold start to intercepting other aircraft and tracking down/destroying enemy targets. Unfortunately, your options for entering into missions really end there as there aren't any pre-existing missions for you to build into DCS World's otherwise brilliant campaign editor, short of creating your own from scratch.
Multiplayer fans will also rejoice at ability to enter into dogfights and missions with fellow DCS World players, flying the Hawk T.1A as they would in any other module.
The Flight Model
For people that are heavily into simulations, it is the flight model that can make or break their opinion of any one particular flight simulation. The Hawk T.1A as it stands uses a Standard Flight Model. Though this is more realistic than any sort of arcade-level flight game out there, it's note quite as realistic as the other flight models available for other modules of DCS World such as the Advanced Flight Model or Professional Flight Model (the most realistic and indeed difficult flight model available for the DCS World software).
Because this is still a BETA, experienced flight sim fans will find that the flight model doesn't quite feel complete when you really test it out. Small details such as the plane being much easier to fly than many of DCS World's other aircraft like the Su-27 Flanker are what gives the unfinished nature of the module away, as well as other things like the lack of authentic-feeling cockpit textures and physics that area altogether too forgiving when manoeuvring or coming in to land.
It has to be remember that this is a self-confessed BETA from VEAO Simulations however; they are working on an External Flight Model that is to be evaluated by real pilots. Expect the finished version of the Hawk T.1A to be heavily tweaked, including improvements to the physics and therefore the aircrafts behaviour during takeoff, landing, manoeuvring, and other such procedures.
While flight sim-purists will be satisfied with simply having the ability to hop into the aircraft and fly it through the air, fans of the combat side of flight simulation will relish the opportunity to try out the Hawk T.1A's armaments. These include the Sidewinder AIM 9-L air-to-air missiles that light up the skies during combat. The Sidewinders can take a little getting used to because the Hawk T.1A lacks a radar. Essentially you're utilising visual cues in order to target enemies with these missiles.
The aircraft also has rocket pods, bombs (both practice and real), and a 30mm gun pod. All of these weapons serve to make dogfigthing in the Hawk T.1A a challenging yet entertaining experience whilst air-to-ground missions are equally as enthralling.
Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Hawk T.1A module is its interactive cockpit. Though other aircraft have cockpits that are equally as detailed and representative of reality as this one, only a small quantity of the DCS World modules possess interactive cockpits. Forget relying solely on keyboard commands for operating the Hawk: you get to utilise your mouse here in order to operate the dials, throw switches, close the canopy (look out for that pesky second latch that's quite difficult to locate) and perform pretty much all the actions that a real pilot would be required to perform. Now, the interactive cockpit definitely isn't for the true beginner. In fact, the startup procedure would likely give intermediate flight sim fans a run for their money since it involves close to twenty different steps. Each of these steps requires that you effectively know what you're doing: knowing the different functions of each of the components of the cockpit is pretty much a must. If you're struggling, then the startup training mission does guide you through this procedure, but in the end it's really just a matter of going through it a sufficient number of times for you to be comfortable with flying the plane from a cold start.
The Hawk T.1A model you get here has some pretty plain textures, a fact that's difficult to hide. The standard model is pretty much all black save for a few details here and there. It's just not a nice model to look at compared to the Red Arrow variant you'll see in previous Flaming Cliffs modules. Compared to the current RAF Red Arrow design, the base Hawk T.1A design in this module is extremely bland.
Inside the cockpit. the instruments are individually detailed of course, and each component operates independently in order to reflect real-time info, but the cockpit textures are definitely lacking and feel about as plain as the external textures on this model.
In terms of sound, you'll enjoy the realistic nature of the audio effects that come with the module. The plane as a satisfying sound as your roar through the sky (switch to external view mode for an awe-inspiring look at your aircraft) or fire your weapons. Annoyingly, the trademark Sidewinder sound that allows you to confirm the firing of the missile is absent, though this is likely to be fixed in future updates to this module.
In its current state, you would be hard pressed to convince anyone but the hardcore flight simulation fans out there of the value of the Hawk T.1A module. It's relatively unfinished, lacking in bona fide missions as well as decent textures. It's also not the most realistic flight model out there (we may have to wait for the External Flight Model for this). The module is still up to DCS World standards however, and equally as realistic than most other flight simulations out there, if not more so. It may be worth hanging on for the External Flight Model however, since this Hawk T.1A module still has some improving to do.