Briefings

AI Lockheed F-35 Lightning II’s

We are pleased to release the last 4 parts of the 6 part F-35 series of packages – the first two parts, the F-35C’s, were released in December and January. The 4 new packages cover the F-35A, conventional take-off and landing and the F-35B with STOVL, SRVL, VTOL and Conventional flight models.

It was only 5 months ago that Steve (Firebird) suggested to me in a PM that building the 3 F-35 variants would be a popular choice for a project.  I evidently thought so too and with some enlisted help and probably around 2500 man-hours around the team, the complete project has now been delivered.

That’s involved some 250 aircraft in 8 nationalities, 17 model variations, 10 FDE’s, 10 sceneries, 2 aircraft carriers and around 100 traffic files. That can be multiplied by 3 – for FS9, FSX and P3Dv4.

The modelling was always going to be a challenge because of the lack of any decent 3-view plans.  The F-35B was created first because of the complex fuselage cuts outs for all the animated doors. In practice, these were relatively straight forward, as was the animation. The really difficult part was the F-35B canopy shape. That took at least 3 iterations with Steve’s eagle eye critique from photographs.

It was also good to have Steve on board to take on the FDE work. Steve created these from some original work by Mike McIntyre. He started with the more straight forward – the FDE’s for the conventional take-off and landing mode like the land-based F-35C. From this came the shorter and faster roll F-35C carrier ops. There was logic in starting this way, because the new FDE’s would form the starting points for the more difficult F-35B variants. The idea was to create as many of the variations as possible with the minimum use of animated lifts in the models so as to retain sight of the aircraft in a traffic viewer window. We needed take-off runs short enough to clear a ski jump, not just at Patuxant River but on a smaller carrier deck like MMI “Cavour”. We spent weeks testing because working right on the edge of stability caused unexpected problems with things like TNGs, the timing of door closing and gear and flap deployment. It was tedious to keep following the back end of an F-35B around the test circuit, just to test the landing each time.

Painting on the other hand created relaxing breaks. In some respects it was monotonous, but quite easy, since all the operational F-35’s were painted the same, even with the variety of international examples. The initial test aircraft were a real pleasure to do, with their colourful schemes.

 

Hartwig had previously amassed a huge amount of photographs that he kindly passed to me. That made the research so much easier.

To really add value to the F-35 aircraft, airfields to operate them from were always going to be a priority. That really did need the help of others around MAIW who had something to work from rather than starting from scratch. Brent was the key to the USMC F-35B airfields at Iwakuni, Japan and Beaufort and Yuma in the USA.  Jamie had Eglin and Giorgio, Amendola and Nevatim for the F-35A’s, while the FSX version of Lemoore from Henry Street was a detailed gem of a scenery for the F-35C’s.  Flying around Norway in winter in Andrew’s Airports of Norway scenery, again for the F-35A’s, was a delight.

By far the most complex of all the scenery elements was Patuxant River by Hartwig. He had already developed this previously and packed it full of AI aircraft types.  Once he had added the ski jump this time round, several other possibilities opened up, including a 1 hour demonstration of all the F-35 flight modes. In all Hartwig has used 16 overlaid AFCAD files! I know that took a great deal of work and some frustrating testing to prevent aircraft jumping between them. It’s a really complex package, but worth all the effort Hartwig has put into it.

It’s been a very intensive and challenging project, but it has all come together. The hardest part for me was keeping every component fresh in my mind, so I could remember how it differs between aircraft models and FDEs across the 3 sim versions, but how it all fitted together so that I could explain it to users in the 6 manuals.  I’m glad for everyone who contributed that we all crossed the finishing line. My personal thanks to everyone who gave me a hand.

John