F-5E-3 Tiger II (Modern Air Combat)
Like its full-sim variant, the F-5 is based on the same basic airframe as the venerable T-38 Talon jet trainer, and remains in use to this day as a stand-in for lighter “red force” aircraft like the MiG-21 in dissimilar air combat training. In DCS, the F-5E-3, especially in the Modern Air Combat variant, comes with very simple avionics and with a single pair of Sidewinders as its only air-to-air weapon (well… aside from a pretty competent pair of 20mm cannons that is). It is small, while not incredibly fast, it can still go past Mach 1 and even carry a few stores with it while doing so. It is a light-weight, agile day-time multirole aircraft with a couple of simple pilot aids, but where most of the flying, navigating, and fighting has to be done by the pilot on their own.
The F-5E-3 only comes with the bare minimum:
- A somewhat temperamental RWR that likes to not show what is actually out there.
- An almost entirely pointless radar (ok, it helps with gunnery and lets you find targets BVR, but that is about all it is good for).
- Some very simple navigation and radar options, all of which are abstracted away completely in the simplified MAC model.
Flying the F-5E-3
The features list may look negative but that is because one key detail it is left out: the F-5E-3 is an absolute joy to fly. There is nothing to get between the pilot and the aircraft, and it does exactly what you tell it to, not what it thinks that maybe you meant to do. The pilot has to figure out where to go and how to get there, not just follow lines and cues on an automated map.
Getting into the air
The process of getting the F-5E into the air is the same as with all MAC aircraft:
- Make sure you have loaded the correct weapons.
(This can only be done with the canopy open and engines off, press LAlt' to open the outfitting menu.)
- RShiftL to turn the power on.
- LCtrlC to open or close the canopy, as needed.
- RShiftHome to start both engine at the same time.
(RShiftEnd stops both engines; RAlt/RCtrl + Home/End starts and stops the left and right engines individually.)
- Wait for the engines to spool up and stabilise.
- Num+/Num- controls the throttle; increase it carefully to get going and do not go too fast.
(W controls wheel brakes; be particularly careful when turning since doing it at high speed will make you tip over, scrape your wings, catch fire, explode and — worst of all — become the subject of innumerable screen shots.)
- Use Z and X to control nosewheel steering (and also rudder) to make your way to the runway and line up.
- LShiftF lowers the flaps — they should be in the middle position for takeoff.
- Throttle up to max and try to stay in a straight line as you barrel down the runway.
- Pull back gently to take off.
- Raise landing gears with LCtrlG; raise flaps with LCtrlF.
(You can generally use G and F to simply toggle gears and flaps, but as a rule during take-off you do not want to accidentally lower them, loose speed, wobble around, and inevitably crash into the ground, so using the specific “raise” binds is a bit safer.)
- Turn on radar (I key).
- Press 3 to enter Close Air Combat master mode.
- Press D to select a missile.
- Use the ;, ,, . and / keys to move the TDC around — the radar scan zone will follow.
(Moving the TDC off the radar screen at the top will increase range; at the bottom will decrease it; RShift; and RShift. to angle the search zone up and down.)
- Once a target has been detected, move the TDC over it and press Enter to lock it up.
- Along the sides of the HUD pipper, a dot and scale will indicate whether you are in range.
- Manoeuvre to keep the pipper on the target and to get good missile tone.
- Once you have good range and tone, press RAltSpace to fire.