IRIS – Battlefield Airlifter

We take a look at the IRIS representation of the Alenia Aermacchi C-27J Spartan and see how the add-on shapes up for P3D…

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The IRIS Battlefield Airlifter is part of the IRIS Airforce Series which spans a diverse range of aircraft that includes the Avro Vulcan, F-22 Raptor, A-10 Warthog, and F-14 Tomcat. It is worth mentioning from the start that IRIS advertises the Battlefield Airlifter as “an artistic representation inspired by the C-27J Spartan”. Which basically means that the product is not endorsed or affiliated with the aircraft manufacturer (Alenia Aermacchi) and IRIS took the oft used approach when dealing with licensing issues of calling it something else. The words “artistic representation” should be a clue to the purchaser that certain liberties were taken with systems depth of modeling and realism, and the long and short of it is is that yes, the IRIS Battlefield Airlifter (hereafter referred to as the Spartan) is definitely squarely in the mid-range simulation level with regards to systems fidelity and realism. And that is not a bad thing – particularly when one considers the reasonable price point of $29.99, though I bought my copy on sale for $17 (even more reasonable-er). The Spartan is available for both FSX or P3D and can be purchased directly from IRIS Simulations.

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The Spartan includes fifteen paint schemes that include the U.S. Air Force, U.S. and Australian Coast Guard, Italian Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, RAF, a factory livery, and some IRIS custom schemes. Both the textures and the 3D model are in the good to great quality area – I would not say they are excellent when  compared to some of the higher end add-ons available for FSX/P3D, but they are good for the price.

Animations include crew and troop doors, a loading ramp, and a refueling probe. Custom 3D objects such as utility vehicles, cargo, and parking cones appear alongside the aircraft when the engines are off and the parking brake is on. Optional configurations include different radar/surveillance setups that add AN/APY-9 or ERIEYE radomes to the top of the fuselage. Configurations can be changed through a convenient utility within the Control Display Unit (CDU) (also known as an FMC or FMS) and allow for turning on/off copilot and loadmaster voices, as well as setting the current state of the aircraft (cold & dark, engines running, day, night, NVG).

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Documentation is good, with a professionally formatted Pilot Operating Handbook running at around 100 pages that details all of the simulation specific settings and features, as well as an overview of the modeled Spartan systems.

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The virtual cockpit is dominated by six large multi-function displays that are each surrounded by pushbuttons to further customize the display configuration and features. The Primary Flight Display contains the typical array of airspeed, attitude, altitude, vertical speed, and horizontal situation indicator. Other data includes air temperature, heading and course information, and selected NAVAID data. The other MFDs can be set to display a moving map, which conveniently shows everything from topography to airports, VORs, airways, and airspace. The Advisory Caution and Warning System display (ACAWS) can be set on another screen, along with engine and fuel data. At first blush, the avionics appear quite in-depth, but a bit of digging shows that the systems are a bit simplified, and the displays don’t go much deeper than what has already been mentioned. Access to electrical system data, pressurization, environmental, and additional fuel and systems pages are not modeled. This being a mid-range module however, I think what is there is adequate for the systems modeling they are shooting for.

The overhead panel is nicely arranged and has just the right amount of complexity to make this feel like a semi-complex add-on. A somewhat experience flight sim enthusiast can probably bring the Spartan to life without reading the manual since the typical order of operations is all that is required: battery, APU, fuel access, engine start, systems initialization. The light systems modeling comes in the form of quite a few switches that don’t function.

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I was surprised to find the engine fire switches don’t appear to cut off fuel to the engines. In fact, when I set an engine on fire, I wasn’t able to extinguish it at all. Feathering could only be accomplished by turning off the fuel pumps instead of by using the red guarded switches. Again though, given the light modeling price point, the amount that is simulated strikes the right balance.

To me, the cockpit is a bit dark, but neither FSX or P3D have ever been very good at variable cockpit lighting, so that is not unexpected. Cockpit flood lighting and instrument backlighting is good, and the modeled HUD night vision is excellent.

The HUD is one of my favorite features of this aircraft. The amount of information displayed on the HUD is fantastic, and when coupled with the nicely functioning autopilot, the Spartan becomes a real joy to fly instrument approaches with. I found that the flight model might be a bit overpowered at lighter weights. Indeed, as soon as you break ground you’d better either pull the power back or start the flaps traveling or you will overspeed the flaps in a few seconds. I tested the model at maximum gross weight and feel the acceleration and heavy feel of the aircraft seems more like what I would expect from a utility/transport aircraft, but I’m not a Spartan pilot, so consider the source of that opinion.

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One feature I feel is a standout in this add-on is the ground handling. The tire tracking, airframe swaying, and generally good friction qualities of the wheels are some of the best I’ve seen in a FSX/P3D add-on – something that most other add-ons struggle with and that X-Plane handles way better. So nice job by IRIS on tweaking the ground handling in the Spartan. As well, the short field performance of the Spartan is incredible. In practicing approaches with full reverse and braking, I was able to bring the Spartan to a stop in 1,300′, in line with the book estimates of around 1,100′ at max gross weights. The sporty takeoff performance will get you out of the same strip as well.

Visibility is excellent in the Spartan with the additional roof mounted windows, and on approach the nose low attitude with the high drag devices deployed will help you keep the touchdown zone in view until the flare. With throttles at idle and lift dump devices deployed, the Spartan will scream out of the sky at extremely high rates while maintaining a low airspeed. Roll response at low speed is very good – perhaps a bit too responsive, but after watching some C-27J display videos on YouTube, the Spartan does appear to be a pretty spry beast at lighter weights. Preset camera viewpoints conveniently cycle through often used cockpit positions to allow quick access to the pedestal, overhead panel, CDU, and other areas of interest. External viewpoints are fair, but could use some tweaking for a bit more dramatic effect.

Sounds are good, and include callouts from the copilot and loadmaster. The aircraft could really benefit from a dedicated load utility to allow for setting of fuel and cargo instead of the default FSX fuel and loading screen. My other wish would be for 2D pop-up panels for the MFDs – simply because I’m still an old schooler that enjoys having 2D pop-ups. The CDU/FMS could also use some improvement since there is no way to manually enter flight plans – they must be loaded via the P3D/FSX flight planner, so there is limited on-the-fly route changing functionality. As mentioned previously, the autopilot functions very well, so flight director/autopilot flying is rewarding. Given the low speed handling and the HUD, the Spartan is an excellent IFR training platform.

Conclusion

Chalk me up as a fan. Sure, I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for turboprop transports that can fit into a field a couple soccer pitches long, so call me biased. While I’d love to see a fully threshed out C-27J with deep systems functionality, and I’d be willing to pay the premium price for it, the IRIS Battlefield Lifter is a good representation that adds most of the bang, with not as much of the buck. It’s a fun plane to fly, honest in its flight and ground characteristics, and could be a contender for the next Mudspike Christmas Eve flight!

Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth

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Notable Replies

  1. Good review, thanks Beach!

  2. Excellent article as usual!

  3. ST0RM says:

    This has been one of my favorite add-ons for FSX. IRIS did a great job and kept adding more. I just wish they’d follow up and add TACPACK capability to it. Simply chaff/flares to allow it to be used in that environment.

    TP didnt take off like it looked like it would.

    -Jeff

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