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MiG Alley Interview
  by Leonard "Viking1" Hjalmarson

Q: What weapons will be available to the F86 pilot?

Rod: The F86 is primarily a fighter and the only aircraft capable of matching the MiG, so generally it will carry no external weapons and will rely on its 6 internal machine guns. The F86 could be fitted with rockets for ground attack work but an F80 or 84 would be a better choice.

The MiG had cannon and machine gun. The cannon packs a punch but it is slow and it's difficult to get another fighter in your sights if he is aware of you. One hit from a MiG was generally enough to down a Sabre. On the other hand, the guns on the F86 were

Q: The watchword for the sims of 1998 has to be "detail." What can we expect to see in weapons and avionics detailing in MiG Alley?

Rod: The weapons are modelled on the actual weapons used: rockets, machine guns, cannons, bombs, napalm.

Film footage has been studied in an attempt to get realistic effects. We will also be simulating the weapon and instrument panels in the cockpit. This includes weapon selection, damage indication and the gun-sight. You will be able to dial in the wingspan to set the gun-sight up correctly.

Q: Flight modelling in Flying Corps was excellent! It sounds like the goals for MiG Alley are even more ambitious! Tell us about the modelling.

Rod: The aircraft in MiG Alley are capable of realistically simulating many characteristics such as flick rolls, spins, aileron reversal, adverse yaw, slipstreaming, stalling etc. Many aerodynamic and inertial effects such as aeroelasticity, wing sweepback, dynamic coupling, compressibility are modelled. Real life aerodynamic data has been used to correctly couple all six degrees of freedom. In each case the characteristics of the aircraft have been carefully adjusted.

MiG Alley Cockpit

With respect to the MiG Alley software the job of the flight model is to receive player inputs, then output aircraft position, velocity, feedback and instrumentation data. The model is executed every 30 milliseconds, independently of the display frame rate. Within each execution the following processes occur:

  • Receive player inputs
  • Obtain ambient atmospheric conditions including wind and gust vectors
  • Perform propulsion calcs (thrust, engine speed, reaction torque)
  • Calculate aerodynamic forces and moments
  • Calculate inertial moments (caused by aircraft rotating, mass distribution, gyroscopic effects)
  • Integrate to get new velocity and position
  • Calculate instrument parameters

On the ground, undercarriage tyre and leg suspension forces are modelled to make the aircraft's attitude, speed and position respond realistically to terrain geometry, engine thrust, player brake, steering and control surface inputs. You will observe the aircraft in Mig Alley tilting in response to acceleration, braking, turning and even wind gusts. In Mig Alley, if you taxi too fast and turn hard you will find you lose control as the aircraft skids.

Propulsion has two modes of operation. You can control the engines throttle setting, as a real pilot does. Or, you may simply control the engines thrust output. For prop aircraft, blade element theory is used to determine thrust/braking and reaction torque produced by the propeller. Engine reaction torque is passed to the airframe.

Click to continue . . .


MiG Alley Cockpit
Cockpit from MiG Alley

Atmospheric conditions vary from day to day in MiG Alley. Obviously pressure and temperature change with height. Wind and gusts are modelled three dimensionally. All these effects are included in the aerodynamics and propulsion calculations. Try landing a shot up Sabre on a dodgy airfield in a heavy, gusty crosswind without skidding down the runway sideways.

One of the major development objectives of the flight model was to achieve a high degree of accuracy in the performances of the MiG 15 and Sabre aircraft. A key feature of this objective was to ensure that the relative performances were true to life. Reports produced by pilots actually involved in the conflict and flight test / wind tunnel reports released by NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) have been analysed and incorporated into the model. The data obtained, from our sources, has enabled us to achieve a superior level of accuracy. Some of the conclusions related to the relative performance of the Mig 15 and Sabre:

  • Generally the MiG 15 can outclimb and accelerate away from the Sabre.
  • Above 30,000 ft the MiG 15 is faster than the Sabre.
  • The MiG's ceiling is estimated to be 5,000 ft higher than the Sabre's.
  • Below 30,000 ft the Sabre can out turn the MiG 15 in level and diving turns.
  • The Sabre can out perform the MiG 15 in a sustained dive.
  • Below 20,000 ft each aircraft's level top speed are similar.

Other flyable aircraft (at present) are the Thunderjet (F84E), Shooting Star (F80C) and the Mustang (F51D). Note, three Sabres are modelled (F86A, E, F) and two MiG 15s (original and the bis). The model can accurately simulate these aircraft as well, but, compared to the Sabre and Mig, less effort has been made in fine tuning all the hundreds of parameters.

Q: Have you had any Sabre veterans fly the model?

Rod: In March 97 we visited Mark Hannah of the Old Flying Machine Company at Duxford Aerodrome. He flies a range of old jets and prop aircraft including the F86 Sabre and MiG 15. He gave us some tips including some unusual handling characteristics in steep turns. We hope that he will be able to fly the model this year. However, he is very busy during the summer and that is when we need him! We are actively looking for "test pilots." If anyone out there has experience to offer....

Q: Damage modelling is a large growth area in sim design. What will we see in MiG Alley in this department? Is it possible to collapse the gear of the Sabre or blow a tire, and will we ever climb in the cockpit only to find an instrument failure?

Rod: Part of the game is asset management, however we will tell the player which aircraft are unavailable. It would be too frustrating to wait for the 3d session to be set up only to be told that your aircraft is useless. After all this is supposed to be a game!

Damage can be much more specific in MiG Alley. For instance, wings can be damaged in different places and to different degrees: in damaging a wing, you could cause damage to the gear or weapons. It is possible to collapse the gear or totally rip it off.

We haven't decided about tyre blow out yet. However, I think they were frequent occurrences during the conflict. Damage will be indicated in the cockpit in a realistic way. For instance, low oil pressure if the engine has taken hits.

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Last Updated February 6th, 1998

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