DCS: AvioDev C-101EB/CC

A long time coming, the AvioDev C-101 trainer/light attack jet has reached full maturity, providing an exceptional DCS World experience. Announced four and a half years ago, the AvioDev team has endured project roadblocks, team shakeups, and a continuously evolving DCS World. Now, with the addition of the External Flight Model and the release of the greatly anticipated, weapons capable CC model, AvioDev has a reason to be proud of their enduring dedication to their product and customers.

C-101EB and C-101CC

The C-101 module now includes two distinctly different aircraft: the C-101EB and the C-101CC. The EB model is a jet trainer with basic avionics and is a perfect introductory aircraft to new DCS World pilots. The C-101 design was originally conceived in the mid-1970s, with initial operational capability introduced in 1980 by the Spanish Air Force. Additional variants were sold to Honduras and Chile and in 1983 the weapons carrying capable CC version was sold to Chile and Jordan. The AvioDev C-101 features significant differences between the EB and CC variants, highlighting the fact that the CC wasn’t just tacked on to the EB development process.

As a tandem trainer and attack aircraft, the EB and CC models also both include rear cockpits that are similar, but not exact replicas of the front cockpits. The ability to swap to the rear cockpit is a nice feature, and some limited multi-player capability is included. [Further testing required.]

The EB model has an orderly panel with the focus on the primary flight instruments, as one would expect in a trainer. The Sperry attitude directional indicator (ADI) and horizontal situation indicator (HSI) are perfect instruments for precision instrument flying. I have a particular affinity for the Sperry “ball” ADI since I used to fly with one in a King Air 200 and Citation II many years ago. While EFIS avionics have made great strides in recent decades, that mechanical Sperry ADI allowed for the most precise flying that I’ve ever been able to accomplish. AvioDev have also modeled the flight director which gives steering, navigation, and approach guidance via horizontal and vertical bars overlaying the ADI. While I would love an autopilot to couple to the flight director, I guess that is why I should find someone to fly the airplane from the other cockpit. The EB and CC models feature slightly different flight director control panels, a nice feature reflecting one of a few small upgrades with the CC avionics.

The Sperry ADI/HSI panel looks fantastic in VR (Odyssey + pictured)

Reviewable status

From a personal standpoint, I can’t even describe how happy I am that this module has finally reached a status where I feel I can give it a proper review. Four years ago, I first loaded up the initial C-101 release and loved what I saw. I shelved the module while I awaited a more complete state, not the least of which was the improved flight model, which would take years to implement as turmoil in the development team led to delays. That time was well spent on improving the 3D cockpit and textures, adding and improving systems, and developing the combat capable CC model. Over the years, I’d peek in on the AvioDev forum, throw in a word of encouragement, and continue the wait. In 2018, encouraging updates from the developer indicated we were getting close. For those early adopters, their patience has been rewarded, and for those who waited for a more feature complete module – the time has come!

Initial impressions

So four years down the road from the first release, it is hard to say “initial impressions” with a straight face, but many of us really did pretty much shelve the module until late 2018. In a word, the cockpits of both the EB and CC are fantastic. The 3D modeling, texturing, and overall quality in all aspects are worthy of inclusion in the DCS World product lineup. It has become one of my favorite DCS modules because of its simplicity, ease of use, easy to read and understand instrumentation, and its ability to pack a powerful punch in missions that consider the CC’s limitations.

The cockpits are ideal for VR pilots because of the easy to read instrumentation, large digits on the radios, and the overall straightforward layout of the cockpit. You won’t find yourself “in the weeds” with regards to C-101 systems and weapons – a simple flip of a few switches and you are in business.

With regards to the CC cockpit, it is markedly different from the EB cockpit, utilizing more modernized versions of the altimeter, airspeed indicator, and flight director control panel among other things. On the right side panel, you’ll find different COM and NAV radio displays in the CC. The panels on the CC include weapons control panels such as the Selection and Control and Release (SCAR) panel that allows for jettison, pylon status indicators, pylon selection, ripple timing, and arming switches. The SCAR Display Unit gives a quick, heads-up look at active pylons and cannon rounds remaining.

The CC also includes a basic HUD with symbology that helps with weapons delivery but in a far more primitive way than those that display CCIP or AUTO CCRP modes. The CC is very much a visual, light attack aircraft that requires pilot skill and practice to make up for lack of automation.

Weapons – 101CC

The recently released C-101CC adds significantly to the value of the C-101 package. With the ability to mount weapons on six wing hardpoints and a centerline canon, the CC brings some fight to the battlefield. Weapons include:

  • 2.75″ Parachute Illumination Rockets (M257)
  • 2.75″ High Explosive Rockets (MK151 HE)
  • 2.75″ White Phosphorous Rockets (M156 WP)
  • 2.75″ Practice Smoke Rockets (M274)
  • BDU-33 Practice Bombs
  • BIN-200 Incendiary Bomb
  • BL755 Cluster Bomb
  • BR-250 General Purpose Bomb
  • BR-500 General Purpose Bomb
  • BLG-66 Belouga Cluster Bomb
  • FAB-100 General Purpose Bomb
  • FAB-250 General Purpose Bomb
  • Mk-82 General Purpose Bomb
  • Mk-84 General Purpose Bomb
  • BAe Dynamics Sea Eagle Anti-Ship Missile
  • AIM-9M Sidewinder (IR)
  • AIM-9P Sidewinder (IR)
  • R.550 Magic (IR)
  • DEFA-553 30mm Cannon
  • AN/M3 Dual .50 Machine Guns

As you can see, there is quite the variety. Some of the heavier weapons such as the 2000-pound Mk-84 will severely restrict your fuel carrying capability, while others such as the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile are provided even though apparently they were only carried in a mock-up capacity. All bombs are free-fall munitions without CCIP HUD assistance. This is old school, angles, airspeeds, windage, and release altitude deliveries. Rockets are very accurate, and the 30mm and .50 caliber guns are nice for close-in work.

Heavy bombs – light attack

The 101CC does have restrictions that you can choose to adhere to in DCS World if striving for realism. Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) is listed as 13,890 lbs. (6,300 kg.) with a maximum total pylon weight of 3,307 lbs. Inner and center pylons are restricted to 1,102 lbs., which makes the Mk-84 a “wartime emergency” load. The 500 kg. BR-500 bomb comes in right at the 1102 lb. limit. Similarly, the 1,278 lb. (580 kg.) technically overloads the pylon, but fly gently and everything will be OK.

With a nominal thrust of about 4,300 lbs. (4,700 emergency), the thrust to weight ratio of the CC is at the bottom end of the scale for modern attack aircraft, but in line with many light attack aircraft. Aircraft like the F/A-18C or F-15E have thrust to weight ratios at MTOW of around 1 : 1.15 to 1 : 1.40 while the L-39C comes in at 1 : 2.7. The CC comes in at 1 : 3.2 meaning you won’t have a lot of escape power at MTOW and the plane will be sluggish and dangerously slow at times when maneuvering. You’ll notice in the accompanying video the chatter of the stick shaker during aggressive maneuvers when energy is low.

Once you get rid of the big bombs, the rockets and cannon allow for a bit more nimble of an aircraft. Without precision guided bombs or air-to-ground missiles, the C-101CC is an up-close and personal aircraft (unless you want to give LOFT bombing a go!). Without flares, chaff, or ECM this presents an obvious problem. The 101CC is a good COIN (Counter-Insurgency) attack aircraft that can handle some light anti-aircraft resistance, but once surface-to-air missiles start flying you had better have an escort or go bomb the command bunker at your home base that sent you on the suicide mission. The CC can dodge some missiles, but it will be a mix of luck and skill that gets  you through any meaningful anti-air defenses.

Shut down the Straits!

One interesting weapon the 101CC carries in the game is the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile. With two of these sea skimming missiles you can cause a bit of havoc while remaining safely out of direct fire range. In my tests they can be launched from up to around 70nm depending on launch altitude and whether they have to fly a terrain contouring profile. They hug the surface of the sea and then perform a pop-up attack. The biggest drawback to the Sea Eagle is that the targeting has to be done prior to the mission start in the mission editor. This would be realistic for a known target location, but it takes some of the fun out of the search and destroy, cat and mouse game. The missile (as modeled) cannot be fired in a general direction with hopes it will lock on to something, which would be pretty cool. Perhaps AvioDev can talk with Heatblur about how they have the F-14 “Jester” able to generate targeting based on F10 map target designations.

If push comes to shove, and you can penetrate the enemy defenses, and the ship has a tall enough profile above the waterline, you can make a WWII type attack using the Sea Eagle in a straight-line torpedo bomber profile. You may want to fill out that next of kin notification prior to embarking on this type of attack.

Air-to-air

Outer pylon mounted heat seeking missiles round out the capabilities of the 101CC. Again, if given the proper mission role, the CC can be a versatile striker and can even tussle with some similar class counter-air like the L-39. The C-101’s straight wing gives it very good low speed handling and a pretty fair turn rate, but it won’t hold energy for long if you put a lot of G-loading on it. A2A weapons are all heat seeking with no HUD guidance, so just select the pylon and wait for the growl to turn into a whine and take your shot. The cannon provides a good opportunity for follow up shots. Just as you should come into the target area under the cover of more capable SEAD units, you should also not wander into airspace with more capable enemy fighters prowling or you won’t ever know what hit you since you also lack a Radar Warning Receiver.

Flight model

Since the initial release of the C-101EB over four years ago, all of us have been waiting patiently for the long promised, but seemingly just over the horizon improvements to the flight model. The original was good enough for getting around, but lacked the dynamic feel of what we all knew was possible with more threshed out modules with their advanced and professional flight models. Thankfully, after the long wait, the implementation of the EB and CC flight models feel fantastic. Technically deemed an “External Flight Model” (EFM) by Eagle Dynamics own naming convention, the C-101 EFM feels great and appears to largely adhere to what one might expect from the real aircraft.

Ground handling is nice and dynamic, though nosewheel friction values could perhaps use some tweaking with regards to making minimum radius turns using differential braking and full rudder input to turn the castering nosewheel.

I did extensive flight model testing and found AvioDev’s EFM to be authentic feeling (based on exactly zero hours in the real C-101) and exceptionally fun. Acceleration is, well, lets say casual at heavy weights, taking a good bit of runway to get airborne and requiring a careful rotation. Cleaning up the plane accelerates away, well..still casually until you get the flaps retracted and then you can start your casual climb up to cruise (see the theme?).

The C-101 has a nice (and frequently heard) stick shaker (technically, it might just be a rudder pedal shaker) to let you know when you are demanding a bit too much lift from the wings. The buzz of the shaker will let you know to ease some pressure off the stick or risk destroying what little margin to the stall remains. The straight wing is forgiving though, allow you to ease into the stall and you can even pin the stick full aft and the plane will just mush ahead with a very high sink rate. A more aggressive stall entry with some speed and a snatch on the stick with some rudder input will send it tumbling off on a wing as one would expect. Pro spin inputs can be held for a bit to establish the spin rotation and sometimes the plane can be recovered just by neutralizing the controls, other times you might need to bunt the stick forward a bit and ease in a bit of opposite rudder. Of particular fun is spinning with an asymmetric loadout in the CC with ordnance on the outside of the spin. Keep an eye on the ADI too because too many spins will cause it to tumble out of alignment, leaving you in a bind if you need to go IFR.

With the new flight model, the EB model is well suited to its aerobatic and formation flight role, complete with colored smoke. Some people fly better formation than others.

Missions

Getting up to speed on the EB variant comes via four nicely constructed training missions that take you through the extensive preflight cockpit checks all the way through to a basic instrument flight. The cold and dark ramp start mission is particularly well done in that it spends a good amount of time not only instructing you on how the systems work, but also explaining why they function like they do. It is very educational and it does require a commitment of a fair amount of time to work through.

The follow up training missions take you on short cross country flights and introduce you to the communications and navigation radios, their use, and the use of the flight director. These are fairly advanced training missions that will test your precision flying skills and your ability to follow the instructor’s commands. They are not easy, and are among the most rewarding missions I’ve flown when you actually complete them. Both the EB and CC models are absolutely perfect IFR trainers that will develop your IFR scan owing to the excellent gauge readability. This module could serve as a perfect trainer platform for someone that wanted to develop a true career progression campaign starting from the basics.

For each of the four available theaters (Caucasus, Nevada, Normandy, and Persian Gulf) there are about thirty Instant Action missions that include free flights, cold start, take offs, landings of various difficulty levels, dogfights, ground attack missions, night missions, and aerobatic displays. And finally, Eduardo “Rudel chw” has created a nice array of C-101CC missions that feature start-ups, cross country flying, radio navigation, crosswind landings, and weapons practice using some interesting scripts and community mods that provide a target range with scoring for evaluation of accuracy as well as some random air traffic to liven things up.

Wish List

So if you haven’t ascertained it yet by my enthusiastic writing, I’m a huge fan of this C-101 module. It may have even nudged up there close to the Ka-50 with regards to instant likability. Well, OK, it took four years, you know what I mean. It is a great module in this newly released state. I do have some desires to make it even more useful in DCS World, although I don’t know how realistic the additions would be.

  • Autopilot – at least a basic wing leveler, but an autopilot able to be coupled to the flight director would make the C-101 an even better IFR procedures trainer.
  • A flare ejector for survival reasons.
  • Night Vision Goggles.
  • SAB-250 Illumination Bombs. The module has illumination rockets, but they can be hard to position just right. I love dropping SAB-250s and attacking under their light.
  • Retarded bombs of some sort.
  • Sea Eagle “mad dog” launch capability or F10 map targeting ability
  • A full C-101EB training campaign and COIN campaign for the C-101CC.

Conclusion

Years ago, I fantasized about writing an article comparing and contrasting the capabilities of the VEAO Hawk against the AvioDev C-101. Sadly, the Hawk has been withdrawn from the lineup despite having made some progress, but I am overjoyed to see the C-101 reach full maturity (though still technically in Early Access). I think those that take to the skies in the C-101EB and C-101CC will be surprised at the depth and capabilities of the module, and I would encourage all that enjoy seeing quality modules in DCS World to throw their support behind AvioDev and encourage their current and future development plans.

DCS: AvioDev C-101 available: HERE!

Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth