DCS F-14 & RIO Gaming

Short Q & Short A: Radar Intercept Officer

Back from holidays, whilst I was chilling at the seaside (btw, use a proper mask and stay safe folks!) I had an idea about something different: putting together a list of common questions answered in 3-4 lines.

This is an ever-growing list of short Q&A aimed especially to new F-14 RIOs.
The answers are by no means exhaustive as the goal is be concise. In order to provide more info, I added a good number of relevant links pointing mostly to the F-14 Manual or the Wiki as my content is usually spread over multiple articles (this is a classification by topic)

If this list becomes too long and hard to read, I will split it into different articles.


I have hard time refuelling

I’m no pilot, but trimming correctly (post probe deployment!) and setting wigs to Bomb usually help.

Air to Air

AIM-7/9/54. Differences?

AIM-7: Sparrow, FOX-1 = SARH (hard lock from launch to hit);
AIM-9: Sidewinder, FOX-2 = IR (fire and forget);
AIM-54: Phoenix, FOX-3 = ARH (soft lock from launch to a range where the missile is activated – “A-Pole“).

AIM-54. Differences?

AIM-54A Mk47: original seeker, original rocket motor;
AIM-54A Mk60: original seeker, more powerful rocket motor;
AIM-54C Mk47: improved seeker, original rocket motor.

AIM-54. Which one is better?

At the moment the AIM-54C Mk47 is slightly more resistant to chaffs than the AIM-54A. On the other hand, at the moment, the Mk60 scores better results in terms of PK due to its drastically higher speed.

AIM-54. How does it work?

At the moment it is fundamentally an AIM-120: it goes active automatically at a distance of ~7nm-8nm and locks on whatever the seeker finds.
Later it will depend on the radar mode used. In TWS it is guided by the AWG-9 WCS until it is at a certain distance from the target, then it is commanded to activate its radar. At that point it is independent.

Can the RIO select AA weapons?


Air to Ground


CPTR PILOT is similar to the modern CCIP (Impact Point), CPTR TARGET is closer to CCRP (Release Point).

COMPUTER PILOT vs TARGET. How do you remember the difference?

Simple but effective.

Why line of sight is always requested?

Due to the quite old INS that is not as reliable and resistant to errors as more modern INS.

What is the difference between HD and LD?

HD: High Drag, such as Mk-82 AIR or Snake-Eye (SE).
LD: Low Drag, such as the standard Mk-82.
Long story short: LD fall faster, HD slower hence are suitable for low-level bombings.

Can the HD work as LD?

Yes, by changing the fuzing settings. Remember to select the appropriate weapon from the weapon drum to have the WCS calculating the correct release (PLT or TGT).

What are the ZUNIs?

The Zunis are unguided rockets.
It is a quite effective weapon against armoured targets but, due to how the damage model in DCS is since ~2012, they and have to be carefully delivered.

What is the TALD?

The ADM-141 Tactical Air-Launched Decoy, as the name suggests, is a decoy that simulates an aircraft. They are pretty funny for sort of Wild-weaseling missions.

How do you calculate the ripple distance?

There is declassified material and ballistic/reference tables available online and formulas to calculate it. My Kneeboard pack has a couple of tables for Mk-82 and Mk-28SE for delivering a two pre-defined distances.
Problem is, only the interval can be set by the RIO. Everything else is in the hands of the pilot.

LANTIRN: how do I use it?

It is quite simple. Turn it on, it takes a few minutes to warm up. Once ready, set it to Oper. Arm the laser, switch the video from TCS to the Pod, slew the LANTIRN onto a target, then let the pilot follow the cues and drop. After a few seconds (depending on the release altitude), lase the bomb.

GBU 10/12/16/24?

GBUs are basically conventional iron bombs with a steering system and a sensor attached. They follow pretty much the conventional weights:
GBU-12 Paveway II → Mk82 500 lbs
GBU-16 Paveway II → Mk83 1000 lbs
GBU-10 Paveway II → Mk84 2000 lbs
GBU-24 Paveway III → Mk84 2000 lbs

Difference between Paveway II and Paveway III?

In real life, there are some differences, namely the Paveway III glides farther due to a better steering mechanism. In DCS there is a more substantial difference: the GBU-24 is bugged, so use the GBU-10.
NOTE: I haven’t tested the GBU-24 in more than a year, they may have fixed it by now.


Best tip for new RIOs?

Understand the altitude Δ between your aircraft and the target. My Antenna Elevation Study should clarify the reasons. The chart is available in both the Kneeboard pack and as a stand-alone sheet.

Difference between Pulse and Pulse Doppler?

Pulse, low PRF, works using the distance. Returns the terrain as well. PSTT is basically unbreakable.
Pulse Doppler, high PRF, uses relative speed. Grater distance but it can be notched.

What do you mean with “Notching”?

Relative speed close or equal to zero. Target aspect close to 90° (hence relative speed in an specific internal).
It affects Pulse Doppler radars.

What is the MLC filter?

Mainlobe Clutter Filter filters most of the ground returns. It can be deactivated, allowing the RIO to spot notching targets but can also create lots of false contacts.

What do you mean with “ZDF”?

Zero Doppler Filter.
ΔV between target and F-14 close to zero. Happens, for example, when chasing a cold target. The RIO can’t do much about it as it is due to hardware limitations. He can instead recognize the situation and command the pilot to accelerate/slow down, for instance.

What is STT?

Single Target Tracking. The radar is focused on one, single target. Non STT modes allow to track or show information about multiple contacts.

What radar mode you use the most?

RWS, 8Bars, ±65°. If I can’t see anything then I try changing the elevation and using PD SRCH. Before Employing I usually switch to TWS Manual.

What information are displayed on the DDD?

Remember the difference between P and PD. Pulse is therefore in AZM vs Distance; PD is AZM vs Closure Rate. The range of the DDD in P is selected by means of the buttons on top of it (5nm to 200nm).

What is the average detection range?

It heavily depends on the RCS (Radar Cross-Section) of the target. In Pulse, for a fighter-sized aircraft is around 60nm max and 80nm in PD.

AN/ASN-92 (Inertial Navigation System) and AN/APX-76 (IFF)

What is the INS?

It is a device that constantly calculates the position, orientation and other information about the aircraft. The INS on the F-14A/B is quite old compared to modern standards and it is prone to drifting.

What are the easiest way to correct a drifted INS?

  1. Copying the latlongs from the NS430;
  2. Buddy-INS;
  3. TACAN fix;
  4. Copying the latlongs from the LANTIRN;
  5. Visual fix;
  6. Radar fix.

I input wrong data during the alignement of the INS and the avionics is showing weird stuff. How do I fix it without respawning? (New 29/07/2020, thanks Nathan!)

The easiest solution is turning off WCS and NAV MODE, then wait for the TID to go dark and a minute later restart the alignment from scratch. If the mission designer has enabled the pre-alignment and the pilot has not released the parking brake yet, chances are that such feature is still available, making this process quite fast.
Mistakes happen and there is no Ctrl+Z in the F-14 so better restart the alignment if you made a mistake as it can compromise the whole mission (I did a error and we realized when we reached the Hold Short position. We ended up doing a full re-alignement in an apron nearby).
More details are in the manual.

How do you fix a broken/borked INS (e.g. due to Over-Gs)? (New 30/07/2020)

Usually you don’t. Follow the emergency procedures and land for repairs/respawn. You can use the NS430 to help navigation if the INS is gone for good.

What is the IFF?

Identification Friend or Foe returns if a contact has positively responded to an IFF enquiry or not. In DCS this is usually quite straightforward and a target is considered either Friendly or Hostile. In reality there are many classification layers in-between as an aircraft may have a malfunction, or lacks the equipment to answer the query entirely.

How does it work?

The AN/APX-76 IFF interrogator is part of the AWG-9 WCS and uses a separated antenna. Either hard lock (STT) or soft lock (TWS) a contact and hold IFF. Then check the DDD: if two short horizontal parallel lines appear, then the target is friendly, otherwise it is not (it can be a Bogey, a Hostile, etc).

Tips about the IFF?

Few simple ideas:

  1. Since it uses a different antenna (and behaves like Pulse) it can provide a quick AZM vs Distance view on the DDD without losing the TID picture.
  2. It can also spots targets not seen by the AWG-9, in that case there is no radar echo in the IFF symbology on the DDD.
  3. When applied to a locked/soft locked target, it “zooms in” and allows to spot targets that previously were not discernible from the DDD/TID.

Are squawk codes supported?

AN/ALE-39, LAU-138 and Countermeasures

How do define what is loaded in each CM slot (Weight-on-wheels)?

There’s a dedicated entry in the comms. Do not use the Rearm window.

How many Chaffs each LAU-138 provides?

160, but the cartages are smaller than the usual so each activation deploys four of them. Moreover, if two LAU-138 are loaded, both are deployed at the same time. Long story short, you have 40 activations no matter how many LAU-138 are loaded

What is the default CM config?

60 flares, 40 chaffs. Flares in the AN/ALE-39 dispensers, chaffs in the LAU-138 (because there is no reason to not loading the LAU-138).

How are Chaffs and Flares deployed?

The pilot can activate either Flares or Chaffs with the DLC button, the RIO has different options (single drop, program).

How the pilot chooses to drop Chaffs or Flares?

By means of the ICS, asking nicely to the RIO to give him Chaffs by means of the dedicated switch in the AN/ALE-39 Control panel.

What are Jammers?

Jammer cartridges are not implemented in DCS yet.

Any interesting tip for new RIOs?

The chaff release can be slaved to the AN/ALR-67. It is quite pointless at longer ranges but WVR can help the RIO to better handle SARH or ARH missiles fired in the merge as Chaffs are deployed automatically.
Bonus inutility point: By mixing and playing with the AN/ALE-39, both Chaffs and Flares can be deployed as a radar threat is detected. Don’t do that.

TACAN, Radios and Comms

What does TACAN mean and what is it?

TACAN stands for Tactical air navigation system. As the name suggests, it simplifies the air navigation by providing distance and range from a set frequency. In DCS, TACAN stations are usually found near NATO-friendly airfields (plus Iran, which uses US aircraft such as the F-14).
The F-14 has two control panels but only one TACAN can be used. A switch to commute between the two control panels is present in each cockpit.

What is the TACAN Yardstick?

It is the brevity for air-to-air usage of TACAN. This means that distance and sometimes bearing between two aircraft can be provided by the TACAN (which is really handy).
It works by setting the TCN to A/A then a first aircraft to a channel, e.g. 63Y, and having the other setting 63 channels more, in this case 126Y.
Note that the TACAN has a warm-up time of a few minutes so you could be Timber Sour if you test it immediately post startup.

Why is the Yardstick limited compared to Ground/CV TCN stations?

TCN can provide both distance and bearing, but the equipment necessary to provide both information is quite bulky (that’s, at least, my understanding). Fighters and smaller aircraft can’t therefore host them so only the distance is provided.
Tankers instead, being much bigger planes, provide both distance and bearing.

Tips about the TACAN?

Two simple suggestions:

  1. I usually have the pilot set the Yardstick, then as RIO I control everything else. By doing so, I know that when he has control, we have Yardstick indication displayed.
  2. To monitor the TCN distance (especially Yardstick) I usually rely on the BDHI-Bearing Distance Heading Indicator rather than having the pilot switching to TCN Dest.

Who manages the radios?

Usually the RIO but eventually it comes down to the crew.
If the RIO gets saturated, the pilot should be proactive and help.

Differences between the radios in the F-14?

Each crew member has his own radio but they can talk on both, even at the same time.
The AN/ARC-159 (“Forward” radio) is the pilot’s. It is UHF only.
The AN/ARC-182 (“Aft” radio) is a V/UHF radio located in the RIO’s cockpit. It can monitor Guard frenquency by changing the mode to T/R + G.

Can the F-14 use ADF?

Yes, but only from the Aft radio (RIO’s) as Fwd radio does not support it yet in DCS.

What is the difference between VHF and UHF?

VHF: Very High Frequency;
UHF: Ultra High Frequency.
The F-14 have two UHF capable radios and only one VHF capable radio.

How does the crew communicate internally?

Crew comms use the ICS system. It can be set as Hot Mic rather than PTT based (don’t do it).

TID – Tactical Information Display

What is the TID?

The Tactical Information Display is a quite big screen that can be repeated in the front seat. Along the DDD, it is the main tool used by the RIO besides the radios.

How does the TID work?

The TID has two main modes: the first is the Ground stabilized mode, a soft of “god’s eye view” from the top (similar to the F10 map); the second is the Aircraft stabilized mode. The latter has an additional mode (ATTK) and the point of view is the aircraft itself. This mode can be quite confusing initially due to how the Vectors are displayed but understanding them is a great skill for any RIO.

How are radar modes displayed on the TID?


  • nothing displayed

Pulse Doppler:

  • Search: nothing displayed;
  • RWS: UNKN symbol displayed depending on the range;
  • TWS and STT: IFF ID symbol displayed depending on the range, plus track vector;

What is the NAVGRID?

The NAVGRID shows information as functions of a reference points (YY). It is commonly place over one of the bullseyes defined in the mission briefing.
NAVGRID is displayed in TID GND STAB mode only, but the references are shown in A/C STAB mode as well.

What is the TID AVIA?

The AVIA page is a TID function that displays a number of information:

  • AoA;
  • Vertical Velocity;
  • ILS;
  • ACLS.

It is useful to monitor and help the pilot during CV landings, especially in low-vis / bad weather.


Can the TCS be slaved to the radar?

Yes, this is the default setting. The TCS, as long as the target is within its reach, will automatically slew on it. This is great for VID the target.

Can the radar be slaved to the TCS?

Yes, by means of the switches in the sensors panel. This allows a “stealth” ID of the target and subsequent lock and employment.

Does the F-14 have a Datalink?

It has, it supports the LINK4A and LINK4C and it is fundamental for CV operations and to receive AWACS info, then displayed on the TID.

What is the difference between LINK4A and LINK4C

LINK4A is the most used mode. It is needed for CV INS alignment and to get data from AWACS/CV.
LINK4C is a Fighter-to-Fighter DL mode. Up to four F-14 can share information by this DL mode. It is very handy in case no AWACS are present in the area or the terrain or the range impedes them. It can also be used to fix a drifted INS (hence I dubbed it “Buddy-INS Fix”).

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