There are few things more challenging on all of the senses than playing a highly-detailed flight simulator game, and with so many to choose from there is no shortage of options for the would-be pilot. For aerial combat however, you will struggle to find a better piece of software than DCS World from Eagle Dynamics. Not only does this free-to-play flight sim framework allow you to fly planes as you would in titles like X-Plane, it focuses quite heavily on a variety of combat scenarios to test your flight skills to the limit.
The F-15C is an add-on module for the original DCS World game and flying it can be a real challenge - this page contains a few tips for beginners on how to get things started. If you would like more information about the plane itself then you can check out either the flight manual or head to the Military.com F15 C Page for more information.
Before you can even dream about getting your plane in the air you must go ahead and start up the F-15C's electronics in order to perform the necessary steps that lead to you being able to taxi the plane to the runway. Since this is a flight sim and not merely a regular "flying game" as such, there are more steps (particularly if you don't have the computer-assisted flying modes on) to getting your plane to the runway than simply "turning the key and steering". These steps are as follows.
- Turn on electrical power by pressing [R Shift + L]
- Close the canopy by pressing ]L Ctrl + C] (it's amazing how often you'll forget to do this)
- Turn on the left engine with [R Alt + Home]
- Turn on the right engine with [R Ctrl + Home]
- Toggle take off/landing flaps with [L Shift + F]
Once the above set of commands has been entered then you are ready to fly. After turning on your power the instruments in the cockpit will light up and you'll see your HUD displays, TEWS (Tactical Electronic Warfare System) unit, and Vertical Situation Display also come to life - these are probably the most important pieces of hardware that you'll rely on during basic flight operations, though you can rest easier as a beginner if you enable Game Avionics Mode and Game Flight Mode in the options menu in order to allows the computer to do some of the work for you.
Taxiing the F-15C is relatively simple since you've already got your engines started and other essential instruments ticking over - you just need to rev up the throttle and steer towards the runway. Once you've followed the startup instructions, all you have to do is increase the throttle by a few steps using the [Number Pad +] key - this will make the plane start to move forwards. All you have to do then is simply steer the plane using the rudders: Z to steer left and X to steer right.
Important: Steering the F-15C is a delicate operation. Unlike in the starter plane for DCS World (the SU-25T Frogfoot) you cannot be too harsh with the rudders or you will end up toppling the plane and causing it to explode. Gentle steering as well as being careful with your taxiing speed will allow you to avoid this annoyance.
Getting the plane off the ground is quite a simple affair (even simpler when you've got Game Flight Mode on however). You can get away with increasing the throttle to full if you want a swift take-off, but you can also lift off the ground at slightly slower speeds, depending on your preference.
Once you're on the runway, ensure that you're facing straight ahead and are central before you increase the throttle substantially (keep central by using the rudders to steer). Once you've reached about 90% in terms of throttle, gently use the [Down] arrow key to pull back on the throttle. You must be gentle with the throttle on take-off - you're looking for a 10 degree angle on your ascent. Use your HUD to guide you at all times and the procedure becomes much simpler.
Finally, remember to adjust the flaps with the F key and bring up the landing gear with the G key.
One of the most important parts of staying the air is learning how to manoeuvre properly. Even if you manage to get in the air, even the simplest of mistakes can cause you to spin out of control if you're not aware that you're making the mistake in the first place. Bear in mind that flying the F-15C can still be difficult, even with Game Flight Mode and Game Avionics Mode turned on.
HUD - This displays pretty much all the vital information you need during take-off, flight, and landing. Use the W-shaped market to determine your orientation in the air compared to the data around it. The screenshot below shows the HUD whilst the plane is in A2A mode.
Note the aircraft speed on the left vertical axis and the barometric altitude on the right one.
TEWS Unit - This is the circular display on the right of the cockpit; it displays information about other aircraft that are within radar range. You'll need to use this during combat and missions that involve encounters with other aircraft/objects.
VSD - The Vertical Situation Display shows the situation directly in front of the aircraft, allowing you to lock on to targets and hone in on single enemies if there are more than one. This is used for combat situations.
It may sound silly to be told how to do something as simple as turn your aircraft but there are a few considerations that must be taken into account. Provided you have flight assistance on (Game mode as opposed to Simulation mode in the options), you won't have to worry about trimming so you can focus on getting some turning practice in.
To turn in the F-15C you must use the joystick, gently pushing in the direction that you wish to turn whilst pulling back very slightly on the stick as well to ensure you don't suffer a drop in altitude. As with most procedures in the F-15C you should move the joystick gently, avoiding any violent or sudden motion.
Speed is a crucial factor when performing turns. If you are too slow in your turn you will literally end up dropping out of the sky but too quick and you will cause the G-Force to increase to levels that will cause the pilot to pass out. Keep your turning speed between about 300 and 350 knots and you should be fine.
Landing the F-15C is probably one of the most challenging tasks that you will face as a beginner coming into the game for the first time. Once you've managed to get the plane in the air it seems a shame to put it back down, but it is an essential skill that you'll feel good about possessing once you've mastered it. If you struggle with landing don't worry: there are many out there that have the very same trouble so you're not alone in your efforts.
It is highly recommended that you pay attention to your HUD when coming in for landing as it displays the vital information that you need when lowering your altitude over time (landing is after all just a highly controlled crash). You'll want to ensure you're not coming in too hard with your landing, lowering the throttle until you're travelling (at most) 300 knots in your descent and even lower than that for the actual landing. It's just a case of following the HUD, paying attention to your altitude and approaching the runway at a very shallow angle, ideally 10 degrees.
Never forget to bring down the landing gear with the G key and also adjust the flaps with the F key as well. The closer you get to the runway, the more it becomes about holding your steady descent whilst stabilising the plane on the horizontal axis, making sure you're as level as possible. Just before you touch down, it can help to bring the nose of the plane up slightly to ensure you don't touch down too sharply.
Once on the ground you can then shut down your engines and call for repairs/refuelling/rearming as necessary.