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E3 1998: Modern Flight Sim Survey
by Leonard "Viking1" Hjalmarson

In part I we looked at Apache-Havoc, F16 Aggressor, Falcon 4.0 and Gunship III. This time we'll survey MiG Alley, MiG 29 Fulcrum and F16 Viper, Su 27 2.0, Team Apache and World Air Power: IAF.

With some simulations its tough to get early information. With others, its tough to sort through the volume of it to present what we think will most interest you! Lets start this survey with a recap of our interview with Rod Hyde, who is responsible for game design of MiG Alley. Place Rod in perspective by thinking of him as the major force behind Flying Corps, one of the two best WWI sims EVER designed.

Click for larger image.

Csim: When was the idea for this simulation born, and why this period of history?

Rod: The research started in 1995 and the team really got involved at the beginning of 1997 when Flying Corps was finished. 3d card support and the mission editor distracted us a little last year. This year we are focused on MiG Alley.

There are a number of good reasons to choose the Korean conflict:

The Somme is flat and so people think that our landscape engine is flat. It's not and our Korean sim will prove it! In Korea we have mountains in excess of 8000ft with bridges over ravines. Ideal stuff for exciting flying. In comparison, northern France is as flat as a pancake. We should have plenty of opportunity to fly missions down the valleys in mountainous regions and go on bombing runs similar to the one in the climax of the Toko-Ri Bridges film.

The Korean pennisula is more than 30 times bigger than the area covered in Flying Corps. Although, we want to have as much detail as in Flying Corps there will have to be some compromises. This area isn't fully sorted out yet. However we will probably reduce the data quality in some areas so that we can have better data on the frontline. This is important because we want to simulate a full ground war. As far as possible we will be basing the conflict on battles that actually happened.

The front moved rapidly and so we can have an interesting dynamic campaign based on reality. The player will have an effect on the ground war. When on grunt work, the player will have napalm and rockets as well as guns and bombs.

The conflict had the first jet vs jet combat. There was some jet vs prop stuff as well. We will simulate conflicts where there are over a hundred aircraft from each side in the air at the same time.

Even though the player will be flying jets most of the time, he will still have to concentrate on getting close to fight. There is no air to air radar and no missiles so we will still be able to avoid "shooting at dots".

Compared with Flying Corps we have some new stuff:

  • play campaigns over the Internet
  • radio chatter with the option of giving orders
  • gun camera film
  • accurate gun-sight simulation
  • configurable quick start missions

MiG Alley uses a new Rowan engine: MiG Alley will be our first Windows only flight sim. The user interface is based on MFC. The landscape engine has been rewritten to allow us to simulate a larger area: 1500km by 1000km. In FC we had two 150km by 150km areas. The flight model has been completely rewritten to allow a more accurate calculation of forces and moments. More details are included, e.g.: effect of damage; suspension on the ground; speeds around mach 1 are simulated; the campaign engine, including a complex supply network, is completely new; cockpit instrumentation and weaponry is modelled on virtual cockpits.

Csim: What are the flyable aircraft in MiG Alley, and why were they chosen?

Rod: In MiG Alley you will be able to fly the following aircraft:

  • North American F86 Sabre versions A, E and F
  • Mikoyan Gurevich MIG 15 and MIG15bis
  • Republic F84 E Thunder Jet
  • Lockheed F80 C Shooting Star
  • North American F51 D Mustang
  • North American F82 G Twin Mustang

The F86 is the fighter. The majority of the most notable air battles in MiG Alley were between Sabres and MiG 15s. The F80 and F84 took the fighter bomber role which included some ground support. The F51 was involved in ground support and truck and train

This is a representation set of the fighter aircraft flown during the conflict. If we attempt to simulate too many then we cannot do individual aircraft justice. However we do need a range of aircraft to give the player a feel for asset-management. In the campaign, the player can choose his strategy to win the war. He will have to manage his assets sensibly.

Csim: What other aircraft will we see?

Rod: T-6: for Forward air controllers, complete with smoke rockets to show you where to place your ordnance. YAK-9, Il-10, Il-28, B29 , B26, C54, C47, Po2, Meteor, Corsair, YAK-15, Sikorsky HO2S-1.

Click to continue . . .


MiG 03

CSim: Tell us about the campaign.

Rod: The campaign, which forms the heart of the sim, consists of three parts:

  • Introduction
  • Spring 51 Offensive
  • Peace Talks

In the Introduction, the player moves from squadron to squadron learning how to use the various aircraft in combat situations. This section of the game covers the period from the initial invasion to the Spring Offensive of 1951.

On moving to a new squadron, the player is presented with a series of missions to complete. These missions have been chosen to illustrate the action during the period. The missions will involve various aircraft from many different squadrons. Once a player has completed a mission, he will be able to replay it several times by flying other aircraft from other squadrons in the scenario.

CSim: What about mission planning. What factors and information will influence our decisions?

Rod: On the ground the player will determine his priorities based upon:

  • his overall strategy for winning the war
  • information from the frontline ground forces
  • status reports from his squadrons
  • interpretation of the map data

The player will be able to plan missions in detail or he can just define the targets and let the computer do the rest. It is possible to plan a number of missions per day. However each aircraft can only be used once per day and the player can only fly one mission at a time. However if he arranges things so that some missions start after other missions have finished it will be possible to fly more than once a day.

The player will receive radio chatter in voice and text. He will also be able to send messages. When on Close Air Support missions he will communicate with Forward Air Controllers and Ground Based Air Controllers.

Landscape data is based on three sources:

  • 1960-70's satellite data
  • 1950-80's aeronautical charts
  • 50,000:1 scale maps used by the Army

Mig Alley will go beyond Flying Corps with even greater detail in the flight models. The aircraft are capable of realistically simulating flic rolls, spins, aileron reversal, adverse yaw, slipstreaming, stalling etc. Many aerodynamic and inertial effects such as aeroelasticity, wing sweepback, dynamic coupling, compressibility are modeled. The designers have used real life aerodynamic data to correctly couple all six degrees of freedom.


MiG Alley won't be second best to any of the coming simulations in physics modeling either. Undercarriage tire and leg suspension forces are modeled to make the aircraft's attitude, speed and position respond realistically to terrain geometry, engine thrust, player brake, steering and control surface inputs. Flying will have an extra degree of challenge because aircraft will be subject to tilting in response to acceleration, braking, turning and even wind gusts. It should be a treat to try landing a shot up Sabre on a bumpy airfield in a heavy crosswind!

Unfortunately, MiG Alley was not ready for showtime at E3, and all we could see was a few screen shots. But based on what I have seen in Flying Corps and what I know about the abilities of Rowan designers, I am on the edge of my chair waiting for this one! Last word on release for MiG Alley is that we will still see it this year. At the moment Rowan is only a week or so away from finalizing the P51 cockpit, so we should have more screens soon.

Go to Part VI



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Last Updated June 5th, 1998

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