RobJ continues to digging in the Arma 3 sandbox much to the delight of us rotorheads. This time he’s created a custom mission for those of us that are keen to fly Rocket’s awesome CH-53E Super Stallion across war torn Altis.
RobJ’s Steam Workshop contributions have been a great asset to the Arma community. His missions are typically aimed at fixed wing and helo pilots, as well as fans of various armored vehicles. To date, he has nearly sixty missions on his Steam Workshop page, allowing you to fly just about any unit you can conceive of. Some of the missions are for stock units, but most are for add-on units either created specifically for Arma 3, or ported in from Arma 2. Rocket’s CH-53E is one such Arma 2 add-on that was recently packaged together with a mass of Arma 2 vehicles to provide one easy to install package. In fact, RobJ’s Steam Workshop page for the CH-53 mission has links on the right side for the three add-on packs that are required: CBA_A3, CUP (Community Upgrade Project) Weapons Pack, and CUP Units Pack. With a few clicks to subscribe to his mission and the add-ons (and a bit of a wait for the hefty download) you’ll be up and flying.
The mission is dynamic in that it never replays quite the same each time. You start out in a hangar at the beginning of the mission where you can also set things like time of day, weather, enemy activity level, and mechanical reliability. Or, you can simply randomize all of them and see what challenges you’ll face! Upon entry into the mission, you’ll be assigned a mission randomly and it is up to you to plan out how to accomplish it. Missions can include SAR, convoy location, civilian evacuations, troop insertions and extractions, and other distress situations. I was slightly disappointed to see there weren’t any sling loaded cargo type missions (I don’t know if they are technically feasible or not). Even without sling loads though – there is plenty of tense action and accompanying sweaty brows with the current lineup of tasks.
Your base is your haven where missions sometimes start (for troop insertions) and you also have access to a supply crate in case you want to get creative, as well as repair and refueling facilities. You can also recruit new crewmembers should you be so unfortunate as to take a golden BB through the cockpit or fuselage (how come all you guys sit on your helmets??). Your crew can be quite useful if you get shot down or accidentally put your tail rotor into a tree and have to make a forced landing. They can provide cover for you while you call in a rescue chopper to extract you and your team – which is the really fun and unique aspect of Arma 3 flying in that you have an entire first person shooter world to explore and utilize if you need. Calling in the rescue helo (a CH-67 Huron) is a matter of calling up the action with your scroll wheel, then carefully picking out a place on the map where the extraction should occur. Keep in mind the terrain and enemy when setting your extraction point! Quite a few times I just escaped being overrun thanks to my AI team and the rescue helo arriving just in time. If you need to, go to your rifle, or you if you happen to crash land near some friendly forces, commandeer a tank and use that to secure the perimeter around your downed helo! With Arma 3, your imagination is the only limit.
Flying the CH-53E Super Stallion is fairly easy given its enormous mass and inertia. Unlike the smaller helos in Arma 3, you won’t have to really dance on the
rudder anti-torque pedals since the CH-53 lumbers around. But you will have to plan ahead, because the Super Stallion doesn’t stop on a dime (yeah, I’ve seen that You Tube video though) and it also takes some care and awareness to shoehorn it into tight LZs (under fire). The cockpit looks nice, but is not functional in that the instruments don’t work, so all flying is done with the heads up display…which in my mind is not too unreasonable in this day and age of technology to imagine CH-53 pilots with some sort of helmet mounted display option. Just enjoy it and realize this isn’t DCS level modeling. I can’t comment too much on the flight model other than to say it feels pretty good and contains enough of the hard stuff to make it a challenge (torque, vortex ring state, etc..). The model features retractable landing gear, a two position aft ramp, lights, and flares. It does not feature weapons – so you’re going to have to close your eyes and rub that lucky rabbit’s foot.
Missions range in difficulty based on a number of factors including mechanical failure rate, enemy activity level, and probably most importantly, weather, time of day, and visibility. Arma 3 does an exceptional job of setting the mood with environmental effects and it works particularly well with low level helicopter flight. The blinding sun glare coupled with low level fog is an absolute nightmare to fly in. One of the more memorable flight I had was in just those conditions to extract troops in contact from a super-tight LZ perched on top of the ruins just west of Cavala. The glare and fog combined to make the trip extremely hazardous and I was lucky not to run into a ridge or tower.
The missions can be a test of your piloting skill and judgement, and sometimes you just get lucky or unlucky if you set down into a hornet’s nest of enemy activity. As bullets crack by and you hear the tick..tick..tick of them hitting your airframe you want to yell at the troops or civilians headed your way to run faster! If you do happen to take a bit of damage and are still in flyable condition, you can return to base and land near the maintenance hangar and your aircraft maintainer will fix you right up (you DID remember to get him a Christmas present right??)
Night missions are a blast with the attendant limited visibility, night vision goggles, and the use of the helicopter’s powerful landing light. The tracer fire is more evident at night, and the risks of putting your rotor blades or fuselage into a tree or other obstacle are greatly increased. Again, Arma 3 gets the mood and lighting done very well for night operations.
As usual, RobJ has provided a great playground for us to pick, choose, and play with our favorite vehicles. Thanks to Rocket and the CUP content for the additional vehicles and integration. Now get on out there and help out our soldiers and civilians in need across Altis!
Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth
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