DCS F-14 & RIO Gaming

Back to Basics: RIO Training in Single Player

Surprisingly enough, I had a couple of hours free last week, so I decided to quickly put together a short video about the question that, undoubtedly, is the most frequent: how can you train and practice as RIO in single player?
Another quick article discussing some basic concepts about aviation and flight-simming, dedicated to new DCS pilots. The goal, as usual, is clarifying those topics in a simple and concise manner. However, this article is slightly different from the usual, wide approach, and uses the F-14 RIO role to showcase how the Mission Editor can be used to practice different scenarios.
The other articles of this series are available here.

Training in a multicrew module in single player is, no matter what you do, not as good as practising with two humans in the cockpit: there is always something missing. The pilot has Jester, which is an amazing feat of software engineering by Heatblur, but it will be always a loyal subject of the front seater (excluding when he ejects…) and never takes the initiative, and it is not proactive. The RIO has Iceman, which is a bare-bone-practice-only AI that does not really do much besides turning and changing speed and altitude when instructed to do so (although there may be plans to expand its capabilities IIRC – don’t quote me on that). Therefore, the pilot can fly and train a good chunk of the skills required to its role with Jester, but the RIO can’t, and a pilot is required for the RIO to practice. Or, at least, that’s what I often read on the internet, in various communities.

Personally, I spent the vast majority of my time training offline. If I have to quantify, for at least 95% of the time I spent in the cockpit I was with Mr Iceman. How did I practice? The answer is simple, the Mission Editor, and I partially covered it already in the past.
That article, written almost two years ago, should have been followed by a video, but for a reason or another I never put it together until a couple of days ago.

Training in SP: Video

I put together this video in a couple of hours, so it does not go as in-depth as I wanted, but it should give you a couple of useful ideas.

Update 06/05/2020

In this video the usage of “Out” and “Skate” are not entirely correct, and I forgot to clarify them when I put the video together (problems of rushing stuff…).
Skate” in fact, is a descriptive call to timeout and go out. “Abort” is the directive call to execute the abort mechanics.
Plan Skate” means that the missile will be supported until timeout, but there will be no merge, rather the Section will aggressively turn away from the targeted group (For more information, check the usual CNATRA P-825, 13-10).

Before reviewing the call, let’s recap the brevities related to this scenario:

  • Abort: Cease action or terminate the attack prior to weapons release or event or mission.
  • Out [direction]: [A/A] Turn or turning to a cold aspect relative to a known threat.
  • *Pitbull: [A/A] Air intercept missile (AIM)-120 is at MPRF active range.
  • *Skate: [A/A] Informative or directive call to execute launch and leave tactics at a pre-briefed range. Modifiers can include LONG and SHORT.
  • Timeout: [A/A] [S/A] Shooter assesses valid BVR shot parameters have been met and missile has reached termination.

* = Meaning may differ from North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) brevity word.

ATP 1-02.1/MCRP 3-30B.1/NTTP 6-02.1/AFTTP 3-2.5 – May 2020

NOTE: A separated discussion should be held about Pitbull vs Timeout, but I’d rather keep it simple and borrow the brevity from the AIM-120 to indicate the moment when the AIM-54 is activated by the WCS, something similar to call “Rifle” when employing 9K121 from a Ka-50.

As you may have noticed already, the error here is that I inverted Skate and Out. A better comm exchange would have been, for example (assuming we had a wingman):

FWD > “Knight plan skate

AFT > “Overlord, Knight 1-1, Pitbull single group, Abort right
FWD > “Knight heading 090

Overview of the scenarios discussed

Three main topics are discussed in the video: basics, simplified BVR Timeline and Geometry.

Basic concepts

The “basic stuff” is the most important series of concepts you can work on when you are a brand new virtual Radar Intercept Officer. An exercise as simple as observing an orbiting target, studying how the vector changes in TID GS and AS and how it disappears when Notching or in the Zero Doppler Filter (ZDF), can help to understand the limits and the strengths of the AWG-9: this is the very bedrock of the RIO job!
The exercise shown in the video is limited to TWS, but there is a lot more you can study. For example:

  • effect of the aspect in P and PD mode;
  • MLC on and off when feet wet and feet dry;
  • quickly changing radar mode to maintain SA;
  • change the altitude and the speed of the F-14 (in the video, both fighter and target are flying at the same speed);
  • increase the range and see which radar mode spots the contacts first and understand why.


The setup shown in the video is extremely simple but allows you to practice the comms, get used to the avionics and the “content” of each step of the timeline (here is an old article of mine about it). Once you are satisfied with the basic setup you can shuffle things around by allowing the target to engage you, adding a wingman and try different “Sorts” or having the target slightly jinking and so on.

Geometry: Target Aspect determination

This is another very limited example of the many concepts related to the geometry you can practice. In this case, the determination of the Target Aspect using the BH → BB formula.
The formula just mentioned is the one I use the most, as in DCS the information provided by the controller is quite reliable, and it can be applied by calculating the BB manually, or by using the Bearing from the controller itself. However, since the AWG-9 returns the True Course of the target and not the Magnetic, the magvar has to be taken into account somewhere. The alternative is using the True FH obtainable from the TID.
Similar scenarios can be used to practice almost any aspect of the maths behind the geometry: you can calculate DOP, Cut, CC, observe the drift and so on. The series of articles related to the geometry is available here.

PS: in case you are wondering, I was actually writing down the values or BH and BB. Too much rust to make them mentally 🙂

The next step?

The mission editor allows you to create almost any scenario. However, at some point, the lack of a pilot will prevent you from being able to practice efficiently. Nevertheless, even fairly advanced procedures can be profitably practised. For example, this is one of the Demo videos about the Modern Intercept Geometry, based on the CNATRA P-825/17. More can be found there.


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