Mudspike was fortunate enough to receive early access to Leatherneck Simulations‘ AJS37 Viggen module for DCS. Troll and I got to take the Viggen for a test ride and have gathered our impressions to share.
As with their MiG-21bis product, Leatherneck Simulations has brought a beautiful aircraft to life. The Saab Viggen itself has a certain exotic charm to it, with its unique canard and double-delta-wing profile and Swedish allure, but the exquisite detail with which Leatherneck Simulations has rendered this lightning bolt is breathtaking.
In addition to being stunningly beautiful, inside and out, the Viggen is remarkably complex. I was initially expecting to encounter MiG-21bis-level depth in the systems: a simple radar, a mysterious keypad, but otherwise an entry-level third generation jet…right? Reading through the WIP manual, however, I started to realize that there were some deliciously juicy details behind the unassuming and somewhat blocky interior. Playing with this work-in-progress version has shown me that the Viggen systems are, in fact, quite sophisticated and deep. It’s going to take some time to get familiar with all of the functions and features, let alone master them. I love it!
Aspects of the weapon system interface still remind me of the MiG-21bis, with large analog dials to select and set modes, but the CK37 computer offers a level of complexity I never expected to find on a 1960’s fighter aircraft. Weapon release parameters, pop-up waypoints, editing the flight plan for cruise missiles, time on target capabilities…too many to list here. The Viggen flight manual is going to be a prized document, probably worth printing out certain sections, if not the whole thing.
The navigation system, while primitive by today’s moving map GPS standards, is remarkably capable, giving the pilot the ability to manually update the navigation solution by flying over a visual reference or with the radar. There’s an advanced landing system that goes a few steps beyond your typical ILS , adding a radar-based moving map with an extended runway centerline, and using ground stations to update your navigation position to ensure an accurate arrival.
Even the weapons themselves offer new and interesting experiences. The Rb75 is your normal run-of-the-mill Maverick, but the offset collimated sight makes it a bit exotic. The remote-guided Rb05 is fun, challenging to master, and remarkably powerful with its 160kg warhead. The Rb04 antiship missile is exciting to watch shoot ahead of you, skimming the waves, while the Rb15 cruise missile takes off on its own with a 4 waypoint flight plan that it follows, searching for its targets on the sea. High drag bombs, rockets, and, of course, the BK90 submunition dispenser are always fun to break out at parties as well Coupled with a multitude of employment options via the various mode dials and features in the CK37, there are seemingly endless ways to have fun on the battlefield.
There are features of the cockpit that are hard to show in pictures that make the experience so much more immersive – lamps have a certain glow to them that feels realistic and the rendering of the HUD display accurately captures the feel of a scanned HUD.
Overall Impression: Sexy and powerful, the potential of this aircraft module is likely going to be underestimated by many. There’s a lot of depth here and, while I can’t help but fear Leatherneck may have bitten off more than they can chew, the level of progress in this pre-release module and the pace of the development team’s output (nightly builds!) gives me good hope that we’ll have a very functional deep-system aircraft that meets the quality we’ve come to expect in DCS.
I remember sitting in the cockpit of the AJ 37 Viggen as a young 20-year-old conscript Viggen mechanic, dreaming of flying it. Alas, that was never to be, but I got to serve as its mechanic and learned a lot about the aircraft that was the backbone of the Swedish Air Force and the very symbol of my nation’s independence. Made in Sweden! It roared! It belched fire and smoke! I dare say that every boy growing up in Sweden during the 80’s dreamt of flying it.
I have had the pleasure of flying two very advanced AJS 37 simulators in real life, built from actual Viggen cockpits, using variants of Microsoft Flight Simulator as the core simulator. Now I have flown the DCS AJS 37 Viggen, right here in my home. And I was actually moved by the experience.
During my service I also got to try the Rb05 simulator. The simulator was built around a rather empty cockpit. It had the flight stick since you need the safety catch and the trigger to launch the missile. It also had the small hand-rest and missile mini-joystick control mounted on the right hand side panel. There was a gigantic curved projection screen where a mock-up landscape was shown rolling by beneath you. A projector showed a red ring surrounding the target. Video game on! The red ring target is approaching! Kill it!
I have been anxious about the release of this module ever since I first heard the rumors about it. Could they be true? Would someone actually put all those resources into making a DCS-level simulation of an aircraft that never served in a war, hadn’t starred in a Hollywood blockbuster, and had only been used by one country? It doesn’t sound like a recipe for a huge commercial success, does it?
Well, someone did. Leatherneck Simulations are on the home stretch of the delivery of their DCS AJS 37 Viggen module. Looks like they will pull it off! The rumors were true, I know this much. Whether or not this will be a commercial success we’ll know shortly.
I loaded up the cold start mission and donned my Oculus Rift VR HMD. There I was! Right back in the cockpit I dreamt of in my youth. My heart actually picked up its beat as I started the big RM8A jet engine by memory. It’s a cockpit I know fairly well, even if it’s 25 years since I first learned about its intricacies.
The Rb05 in the DCS AJS 37 Viggen module works pretty much as I remember from the real simulator. When you get proficient launching at targets straight ahead, while on attitude hold autopilot, try doing it offset and while manually jinking to avoid enemy fire. It certainly instills respect for anyone who trained towards the day they would have to launch one at a real enemy, shooting back at them.
Perhaps the greatest innovation of this module is the ground radar. Now, don’t expect F-15E capabilities and fidelity here. The radar of the AJ/AJS 37 was designed with navigation in mind. It allows the pilot to find, and navigate by, large terrain features like lakes, rivers and hills. It also has some ranging features for dumb munitions delivery. I think Leatherneck Simulations did a great job simulating the radar. It’s a true-to-life simulation as in it doesn’t do anything the real deal didn’t. Nothing more, nothing less.
The Swedish Air Force Cold War doctrine stated that aircraft had to be dispersed in order to avoid being sitting ducks on airbases which the Russians could knock out with a cruise missile. So road bases were built: shorter landing strips connected to the regular civilian road system. Airbases masking themselves as roads, if you will. This meant that the Viggen had to have STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) capabilities. It was constructed with a sturdy landing gear, a canard wing configuration and thrust reversion. It also had a good autopilot and auto-throttle with speed control. All this enabled the Viggen to fly slowly, at high angles of attack, land without flaring just like on an aircraft carrier, and reverse its jet exhaust to shorten the stopping distance. Leatherneck Simulations naturally simulated this in their Viggen module. Short field landings are a hoot!
There are of course many other features of this module worth mentioning, like the CK37 navigation and targeting computer: a simulation within the simulation. The EP13 targeting sight, which is a scope-mounted display for the AGM-65 Maverick TV guided missile, called Rb75 in Sweden.
So, the Viggen may never have been used in anger¹. Tom Cruise never flew one on the big screen, and you basically had to be a Swedish citizen to fly it, with a few notable exceptions, like Chuck Yeager. But if you like flight sims and enjoy learning new systems and features and are up for a challenge or two, you will enjoy the DCS AJS 37 Viggen module by Leatherneck Simulations. Should you own a VR HMD, the great VR experience is a bonus.
¹Never used in anger? Come to think of it, there was that time when the Russians parked a submarine on a shoal right outside our largest navy base. The Russian Baltic fleet steamed full speed towards the Swedish coast, prepared to protect their sub. The Swedish government and armed forces had to act as if this was a prelude to invasion and the Swedish prime minister gave the Air Force a general order: “Håll gränsen!” Hold the border!
Leatherneck Simulations’ AJS Viggen module for DCS World is planned to be released on January 27 for $59.99. It is currently available in the DCS E-Shop for $47.99. Heatblur.com also offers the module at this sale price, as well as combination packages with T-shirts.
Get more inside info on the DCS Viggen module on our forums.