Cold War timeline misconceptions
Reading a couple of topics on r/hoggit and other Discords recently, I realised how much confusion there is about the Cold War period, especially from players searching for advices.
I don’t mean to be pedantic or lecture anyone, but the Cold War covered decades. Usually, the beginning of the Cold War is considered as the years right after the end of WW2. It then concluded with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet Union. The interval commonly accepted is 1947 to 26/12/1991. In so many years, many “sub-periods” can be identified. Therefore, clarifying in which period of the Cold War you are interested into is important, as the military technological progress pace was stunning.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s limit the examples to what we have, or going to have, in DCS. In fact, the F-5 and the MiG-21 that are considered staples of the Cold War (spoiler alert: they are not), they are understandably quite different from the various F-14B/D, F-15C, F-16C, MiG-29, MiG-31, Su-27. Which in turn are different from the F-86, MiG-15, G-91 and even some warbirds were still in use at the beginning of the Cold War. Fun fact, the always recurring F-5 and MiG-21 faced (or fought with) most of the aircraft I mentioned, probably besides the warbirds (e.g. MiG-21 vs F-14 in Iran and F-15 in Israel).
If, rather than time-period, we want to categorize by generations, the matter becomes a bit easier, although the definitions are quite flexible.
Generally speaking, 3rd gen aircraft rely heavily on ground control, their radars are less powerful, most do not have look-down shoot-down capability or this feature was provided only on later variants. There were BVR missiles, but the greatest issue was identifying the target you were shooting at – something that was still a thing even in Desert Storm. RWRs and defensive suites were not very common, or if they were, they were not very precise (better than nothing, I guess!).
The common denominator is the lack of Situational Awareness, if not the presence of a substantial element of chaos, only compensated by the superior training of a faction. The Israeli air force showed a few things to the world in this regard. Speaking of training, the genesis of TOPGUN, and the conclusions of programs such as CONSTANT PEG, really underlines this point: logistics, aircraft and assets count a lot, but ultimately is the crew in the aircraft that makes the difference.
DCS, 3rd Gen, and the Server that does not exist
Let’s be honest. DCS can’t depict a realistic a 3rd gen conflict. Not in casual servers, at least, and there are no, non-casual servers outside flight groups. Casual players, looking for a more immediate experience, wouldn’t fly realistic 3rd gen servers. It would be too much. Getting blasted out of the sky without even realising it is not a lot of fun for many, especially the less experienced. Perhaps it is for this reason that ED is not fixing their nanometre-precise Radar Warning Receivers?
If we look at the history of many conflicts of the period, RWRs were not a thing, and if they were, they had severe limitations, often they were unable to recognise particular radars or had other issues. The Iranians exploited this aspect, to name one, but the simplest and clearest example come from CONSTANT PEG: in a testing flight, F-15s flew masking from the MiG’s GCI, found them and sneaked on them using their radars. The MiG-21 pilots had no idea of what was going on.
In general, servers give away Situational Awareness too easily. In fact, most servers have ways to “cheat” (F10 map, external views, Overlord bot – which has no LOS, and so on). This means that creeping on the target’s 6′ to employ won’t work against any player who has invested a minute understanding the tools that the server provides.
Away from that, 3rd gen aircraft require proper, multiple, GCIs, albeit they were often limited. I am unsure whether LotATC is capable of providing the same issues and imprecisions radars had back then. The Mirage vs MiGs encounter allegedly caused by GCI imprecision in ZA comes to mind.
Finding enough players competent and happy to control is not easy. And even if they are, it would require crews familiar with the basics of Geometry; otherwise players would end up flying pure all the time.
Another delicate point is the value of the assets. The only way to convey it is limiting to one respawn every X amount of time; something that worked very well in ArmA3.
These considerations imply that workarounds are necessary to appeal to the audience, thus having factors such as the situational awareness becoming straightforward, even in settings where it shouldn’t. This is, unfortunately, the nature of most casual servers.
So, at the end of the day, for a reason or another, the realistic server I’d love to fly in does not exist, and probably will never exist.
The experience I’m looking for will most likely be confided to the realm of ad-hoc campaign in organised and structured groups.
What do you think?