We take a look at a very cool add-on campaign for Strike Fighters 2 that lets us fly for the British or Argentines in a pitched battle for control of the Falklands…
The history of the Falklands War has always fascinated me, so I’m amazed that it has taken me this long to finally load up and fly the awesome campaign created for Strike Fighters by Kesselbrut, and further modified and updated by eburger68 for Strike Fighters 2. The amount of work that has gone into this package by dozens of artists and modelers is just incredible. Bringing it all together under one package is equally impressive. The package weighs in at around 387MB and decompresses to a sizable footprint of 2.75 GB! Included are hundreds of objects, aircraft, helicopters, ships, structures, weapons, terrain – you name it. The package can be found residing with our friends over at CombatAce.com – but a quick note to encourage you to DONATE to their cause. Whenever the bug to fly SF2 strikes me, and I head over to visit their site, I try to buy at least a monthly membership as I ping them with questions and download their files. As a site owner, I can appreciate the costs involved with standing up and running a site. Detailed installation instructions are provided on the file download page and be aware that SF2 North Atlantic owners can use a few of the extra features such as carrier battle groups and new mission types and campaigns.
The campaigns can be flown from the perspective of the UK or Argentina and the included scenery does a good job of representing the conflict area with flights originating from bases in the islands, from carriers, and from land bases in Argentina. The 300 mile ocean crossing from the mainland can take about twenty minutes, but with time acceleration and action skip features in SF2, there isn’t much purpose to just droning along for half an hour.
Please check out the list at the end of this article for mods I’ve used in my screens.
Flyable aircraft in the campaigns include:
- Sea Harrier GR.3 / FRS.1
- SA.341B Gazelle
- A-4 Skyhawk (various)
- Canberra B Mk.62
- IA-58a Pucara
- Mirage III
- MB-326 GB
- Super Entendard
In action around the islands will be various other support and combat aircraft including helicopters, transports, and other fighters and bombers. As is typical with SF2 campaigns, the action exists across the theater and there is always something exciting happening.
The included aircraft have been created by talented modders and artists and they range from super high resolution, such as the ThirdWire A-4s to adequate to do the job. As with all SF2 aircraft, systems are basic and the focus is on flying and combat rather than switchology. The flight models are good, and my favorite (of course) are the Harriers for their challenging V/STOL modeling. I’m also a big fan of the Pucara for its maneuverability and cool look.
Missions include escorts, strikes, close-air support, anti-radar, fighter screens, intercepts, bombing, recon, and anti-ship missions. Without a doubt, the most hair-raising missions are the Argentine strikes against the assembled British ships at the landing site of San Carlos Water – nicknamed Bomb Alley by British forces due to the often repeated attacks by Argentine aircraft against the ships moored in the bay. The low level A-4 Skyhawk attacks against the assembled British fleet are probably among the most iconic images that represent the Falklands War. The slashing attacks were successful in sinking and damaging some British ships, but the damage could have been far worse had the bomb fuses been properly set for the low-level attacks. Many bombs simply passed through the ships without exploding. In SF2 Falklands 82, the concentration of ships in Bomb Alley are daunting. The concentrated anti-aircraft fire, short range missiles, and Harriers swooping in are a nerve wracking affair. Accuracy with the non-CCIP enabled A-4s is very tough and the environment is very challenging. Repeated attacks will earn you a torn off wing or a missile up your tailpipe. Limited chaff and flares also mean that your best bet will be your first attack.
Rising up from the fleet to confront the attackers, of course, were the British Sea Harriers. In SF2, the Harrier is a fun and challenging beast to fly – sporting a pair of heat seeking missiles and a gun, the Harrier serves as both fleet defense and an attack aircraft. Dropping bombs with the Harrier is a bit easier since it does have a CCIP indicator (not sure if this was realistic for this era Harrier or not) and it does a good job at it. Of course, the hardest part of flying the Harrier isn’t necessarily fighting with it, but bringing it back aboard the ship. It takes a steady hand, good planning, a light control touch, and awareness of that burble that precedes the stall. It is also a bit of a fuel hog, so make sure you have enough gas to make an approach and hovering landing at a high power setting.
The terrain of the islands is well represented with a scrubby – low look to it. It would be nice if it had a bit more elevation changes – it does seem a bit less lumpy as compared to the photographs, but it serves the purpose well. Nice touches include local landmarks such as the lighthouse on the east end of the islands, some ships that were there, and nice versions of the towns and airfields. Port Stanley is well represented and even includes static bomb craters from the famous Black Buck Vulcan raid that kicked off the British response to the invasion. Scattered across the islands are Argentine troops, vehicles, Blowpipe missiles, vehicles, Roland missiles, and other specific features and units that are representative of the war.
Adding to the campaign experience is recent advances in SF2 modding that include some brilliant techniques that push the horizon/drawing distance out significantly, and reduce or eliminate the high distance Z-fighting and shimmering that was often a side-effect of further viewing distances. With the settings I have, airfield objects and targets appear at much greater distances and they don’t pop-in abruptly, leading to a really fantastic visual experience. Links to the distance and shimmering objects mods are at the end of the article. Take a look at these screens that demonstrate the further viewing distance (click to expand).
To enhance my SF2 experience, I’ve always relied on some fantastic mods by a very talented community. Recently, Stary has been up to modifying his SARCASM 2.0 beta, which results in the fantastic clouds and sky palettes you see in the screens above and below. It is really superbly done and sets up a moodiness that is appropriate to the South Atlantic environment. The darker, windswept ocean is a feature you can select by choosing a sea-state in the mod – another nifty little feature of the package.
As well, I’m using Stary’s beautiful Unified Effects package, which enhances explosions, fire, smoke, and pretty much Hollywoodizes everything and makes the experience vastly more entertaining.
Thus far, I am only three missions deep in the Operation Corporate campaign, flying a Sea Harrier against the entrenched Argentine forces. I will transition from this article to a series of AARs in the forums detailing my progress. SF2 campaigns are a bit mysterious to me still, but I’d like to use this small scale war to try to learn how they work. With just nine airframes in my squadron, attrition is not a strategy that works well for us. It is nice to see after I’ve bombed some buildings at Port Stanley that they remain destroyed in follow on missions. I’m a big fan of object permanence in campaigns.
Thank you to the modders that contributed individually to this mod, thanks to Kesselbrut for the original campaign, and eburger68 for “Re-Duxing” it for SF2.
- mue’s Shimmering Effects Fix
- mue’s Extended Draw Distance Mod
- Stary’s Unified Effects Cumulative
- Stary’s SARCASM 2.0 Beta
- Kesselbrut & eburger68’s SF2 Falklands ’82
- CombatAce.com Subscriptions (daily and monthly available, but not required to download)
- ThirdWire Productions Strike Fighters 2
One final thing. I know the Strike Fighters series has moved on to mobile and that, by all appearances, Third Wire Productions is not very interested in PC flight simulations any longer. Economics, disinterest, frustration with the community – I totally get it from a business and personal standpoint. But – it is this longtime simmer’s opinion that a multiplayer capable SF2 would be one of the most epic PC flight sims of all time. All we need is the connectivity to have dozen-plane Alpha strikes against targets..flak covering the sky..wingmen erupting in flames…debris and pillars of fire across the map. F-4s on top of A-6s, MiG-21s racing in. You name it, and it is possible in the SF2 world thanks to these talented modders. But what we don’t have is the ability to play online with each other. And that is just a darn shame, because it would be epic..and would make this sim near timeless because it has held up well. It remains the near perfect balance between hardcore and a game, and is infinitely approachable. Map three axes and a trigger and go fly. There is plenty of room for a light sim alongside our more detailed ones. One can hope.
Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth
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