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Air defenses and CA: Perspective of the current state, issues, and way forward


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I'm making this thread as a result of many months of testing and contemplation of DCS air defense units. I know that this will be long and probably only a handful of people will read the whole thing. However, I hope at least one dev will take notice as I truly believe CA can be made into something so much greater than the sum of its parts.

 

Just to preface this, I have extensive experience with DCS air defense units and CA as a mission maker, operator, and as a guide maker. My guides include SEAD reference guides, CA guide videos, and flare effectiveness studies.

 

F-18C Flare Effectiveness Study

SEAD Reference Guide

 

My research for the SEAD Guide and my experience as an engineer gives me a solid perspective on how this system should work, at least for the level of current implementation within DCS and CA. So, in writing this I hope that it's clear that I'm not just writing this as a kneejerk reaction. I'm making a critical assessment of the current system, from my personal perspective as a consumer, and how I think it can be improved. I know that 98% of people who play DCS do it to fly jets, and I totally understand that. However, as a pilot I will say that a large portion of the DCS experience revolves around the ground units as well. Not having air defenses on the same level as the aircraft not only does the air defenses a disservice, but also the experience of the pilots flying against them.

 

I also understand from a dev point of view CA is a low margin product. It will never sell in the numbers of even the most modest plane module. That every dev hour spent on CA could be used to work on a feature of the 18 or 16 that the vocal community is asking for. With that in mind, I'm not asking for anything like a full interior modeling of the SA-11 launcher. In my suggestions I attempt to keep the expectations as grounded as I can, in hopes that spending a few hours programming or modeling can result in significant results.

 

So, buckle up boys and girls.

 

Air Defense Units: Too few, too old, and lacking interoperability

One of the biggest problems I see with the air defense units in DCS is that there are just not enough variety of air defense units to keep things interesting. Usually there are only a handful of SAMs you will see being used most scenarios. SA-10, SA-11, SA-15, Patriot, SA-9, MANPADS, ZSU-23, and AAA. Sometimes you'll see a SA-2 or SA-3, but those are more suited for period scenarios as they generally aren't survivable in a world of AGM-88s. Of the main countries (Russia, US, countries within maps), there is significant difference in systems modeled and systems in inventory. Below is a list (from Wikipedia so not 100% right but gets the point across, don't @me) detailing some of missing air defense units in DCS. I'm also including radars, as the variety of EW radars is particularly poor in DCS.

 

Russia

SA-17

SA-12

SA-20/21

SA-22

S-350E

9S15

PPRU-1

Tin Shield

 

Georgia

SPYDER

Mistral

57mm AAA

Ground Master 400

Ground Master 200

36D6-M

ST-68U

Tin Shield

 

Iran

Sayyad-1

Sayyad-2

Bavar-373

Raad

Ya Zahra

Herz-9

Khordad 15

Qaem

 

Saudi Arabia

Mistral

Crotale

THAAD

Skyguard

AN/FPS-117

AN/TPS-43

 

 

Oman

Mistral

NASAMS

Crotale

THAAD

RBS-23

 

Syria

SA-17

SA-22

 

Turkey

SA-20/21

HISAR

PMADS

KORKUT

Skyguard

KALKAN

AN/MPQ-44

AN/FPS-71

AN/MPQ-64

AN/FPS-117

 

Israel

Arrow

David's Sling

Iron Dome

 

 

Now let me be clear. I don't expect all, or even most, of the above listed systems to be modeled in DCS. Some there is too little information on to model, some probably have security concerns (especially on the Russian side), and some are not worth doing one-off modeling of. However, there are definitely a few in here that would be "easy" to implement and could be used in multiple countries. Mistral and NASAMS, for example, already have in game assets that can be used to cut down on development time. Other systems, like SA-20/21, are extremely high performance and would greatly bring the air defenses units closer to real-world and modern capabilities while using a lot of the work done on the SA-10.

 

Another big issue is that the average age of the defenses in DCS is probably close to 40 years. Most of the Russian stuff is ancient compared to what is currently fielded, especially in Syria. This why I'm not extremely excited about the SA-5. While it'll be nice to get a new long-range SAM, its capabilities are really limited on the modern battlefield. It really is a bit jarring to be flying a 2000's era F-18 or F-16 and flying against SA-10s and SA-8s from the 1970s. In some missions even 1950s era SA-2 or 1960s era SA-3. I do think it's great to have these units for period missions and missions that don't want a high level of difficulty, but for all the "bleeding" edge tech on the aircraft a lot of these systems feel like sitting ducks. Especially with how the default air defense logic works. Starting with PG, and now with Syria, people are wanting to replicate real-world conflicts that are ongoing. This means we need more modern systems that can properly replicate the conflicts. There is also a distinct lack of anti-ballistic missile capability. The SCUD was a fantastic introduction to DCS, especially for period missions. However, the SCUD can be intercepted by a variety of systems nowadays. The Patriot within DCS currently should be able to, but cannot. The Aegis system on ships should also have a capability to do so. I'm sure adding this capability would be a significant drain on resources, but missile defense is a huge part of dynamic with Israel. Leaving it out leaves out a large part of the equation for the region, as well as in PG.

 

A lot has been made of the poor logic of the SAMs, so I will not belabor that point. I have seen the discussion of a new third party IADS module, which I'm excited to hear more about. In the meantime, the sub-par default logic can be improved by scripting like Skynet. I think that Skynet sets a great ground work for additional improvement on integrated SAM systems. What I want to bring up is the base issue I see with air defense units in DCS, the inability to pass target information between groups and potentially between units. This is an area that I would really love a devs insight into, to make sure I understand what's going on correctly. It is my understanding, based on discussions with Deka folks and my own mod work trying to make a controllable SA-11, that there is no way to pass target data between individual units within a group nor between groups. So, for example, in DCS each SA-10 battery requires its own Big Bird EW radar to have access to its radar feed. In real-life, one Big Bird can support multiple batteries through a central command post. In DCS there is no way to pass the radar feed from one battery to the next. This is a major limitation as the whole point of having an EW radar is to provide cueing to SAM systems of targets nearing their engagement WEZ. Currently, having EW radars not associated with a SAM battery are pretty useless outside of a script like Skynet. I believe this limitation also passes to launchers not being able to receive target data from a battery command post in the same group. In the lua files for the SA-11 launcher it makes mention of a "unit's own searching radar (for 2 targets)", implying that there is a simulated search radar attached to the SA-11 launcher that allows it to cue to targets. For the SA-10 launchers there is a maxtargetdetection range listed, as well as a ECM variable. These are indicative of a radar being attached to this unit in some capacity as well. I'll be the first to admit I am not good with lua, and in the SA-11 launcher file there is mention of "external target designation from CC". So, I am seeking confirmation that this understanding is correct. However, talking with a Deka dev who was working on the HQ-7 he indicated that passing target data from a search radar to a launcher was not possible. Down the road this will need to change to enable true IADS capability and, until it is fixed, limits what can be done with the units to make them controllable by players.

 

Combined Arms: Expanded Controllable Launchers

Of the systems deployed within DCS, ED has done a very good job of making a lot of them controllable. It's not a high-fidelity interface by any means but it's something. This mostly comes down to most of the SAMs being tactical with their own integrated search radar attached to the launcher. However, what's really lacking is medium-range SAMs that are controllable by players. Sticking to single unit SAMs for now, the primary candidate would be the SA-11. A while back I attempted to mod the SA-11 to make it controllable. I actually was able to create a Frankenstein’s monster that was controllable and could successfully track and engage targets beyond visual range. The only hang-up I ran into was getting the turret to slew in azimuth, it got hung up when trying to position the camera in the lua file for some reason. While the actual file has been lost to time, I am by no means a decent programmer. I mostly accomplished the mod by copying and pasting code from the SA-8 lua. Doing so I was able to make an almost fully controllable and functional SA-11, with an attached search radar to make up for the lack of connection to the command vehicle. A trained programmer could probably make short work of it in an official capacity. In fact, Deka has already implemented a controllable medium-range SAM with the Type 52B Destroyer. The 9M317 missile can reach around 40 km. Granted, it's not perfect. There is no search radar integration so you have to manually acquire the target, but it's the longest-range controllable SAM by far. However, it's a great starting point to make controllable medium-range SAMs like the SA-11.

 

As I mentioned the one part missing from the Type52B is the lack of a search radar display for the 9M317 operator. This leaves the operator having to scan visually for the target. Far less than realistic for a weapon system incorporating search radars. Similarly, as mentioned earlier, in making the SA-11 mod I was unable to tap into the radar feed from the SNOW DRIFT radar associated with the SA-11 via the battery command vehicle. To get around this I created a simulated search radar on the SA-11 launcher with the same parameters as the SNOW DRIFT. I've noted that Deka has done something similar with the HQ-7, adding a simulated search radar to every launcher. While it gets around the communication problem, it is obviously less than ideal. Until the intra group communications are resolved this problem will persist.

 

Combined Arms: Multi-unit Air Defense Systems

As mentioned before, none of the multi-unit air defense units are currently controllable in DCS. These are things like SA-2 or SA-10, where the radar and launcher are two separate vehicles. I believe the main reason for this is the above-mentioned lack of passing of radar information. For something like the SA-11 you can't send target data to the launchers. For the SA-10, I think it has to do with the launchers acting semi-autonomously and not relying on the target track radar itself to launch. Again, I would appreciate a devs insights into this element. This leaves a player unable to control a command vehicle and issue commands. So, assuming that issue, if it exists, can be resolved what is the best way for a player to control, say a SA-10? There is a main tracking radar, a couple of search radars, a command vehicle, and multiple launchers. The way that seems the easiest is to use the already implemented F10 map attack method. For those that don't know, you select a friendly unit on the map, select "Add Target", select an enemy you want it to engage, then select "Start Fire" to have it begin engaging. This is meant mainly for artillery or tanks, however as far as I can tell doesn't work for air defense units. You can select a target and tell it to fire, but it just seems to ignore the command and target whatever it wants. Conceivably, this method should be pretty straight forward to implement. It also provides a view more akin to a regional air defense commander, rather than a battery level commander.

 

The above method however does not replicate a tactical unit experience. While I have no misconceptions that we will ever get a fully modeled interior for an air defense unit, a proper PPI would get us most of the way there. The PPI can currently be accessed in the controllable SAMs, and provides functionality to acquire and engage targets via the radar rather than an optical site. Since this screen replicates the output from a search radar, it wouldn't be available to a SA-11 launcher operator. It would be available in the battery command vehicle. This set-up is currently implemented by the Deka HQ-7. The command vehicle can be controlled, with only the PPI accessible. They can be used to detect targets and cue human operator of the launchers to a target. I've yet to ever find a situation where more than me wants to run air defense. Therefore, it is necessary to be able to cue AI launchers to targets from a controlled command vehicle. Again, communication issue notwithstanding, there are a few ways to handle this that leverage systems already in place. The HQ-7 battery command vehicle will be the base for both.

 

The first would use the PPI as it usually works in the controllable units. The targets would show up and be clickable. Once clicked, the targets would be selected and the system will automatically determine which launcher will engage the target. For something like the SA-11 you'll be able to select as many targets as you have launchers, otherwise you'll have to de-select a target and select a new one. For something like the SA-2 you'll just select one target for engagement. There could be automatic mode where a launcher will engage automatically once the target is in range, or a command mode where the player presses the button to launch the missile. This one I would imagine will leave most of the behind the scenes functions intact, but provide at least some basic control over the battery from the command vehicle.

 

ZWYDalw

 

The next idea is to have a more sophisticated PPI that would display targets and assign them more realistically. All the current targets would be displayed on the screen and given a target number. Targets detected by other radars can even be displayed if the command vehicle is integrated into an IADS. The assigned number can either be in reference to the radar, or the IADS network. A specific target can then be assigned to a launcher if it's a system like the SA-11. Or can be an assigned target for a system like the SA-10. Again, there can be an automatic engagement mode where the system engages automatically, or manual where the player launches the missile. This method is more flexible because it can be used across any air defense unit with a command vehicle with minimal modification. I feel it also more realistically reflects how a commander would operate his battery.

 

bQRXgUC

 

From the launcher point of view, again referencing the SA-11, the launcher itself would benefit from an ability to receive target cueing from the command vehicle. The command vehicle would hopefully be player controlled, but more than likely will be AI controlled. Sticking a fake search radar on the launcher is not a good enough solution, in my opinion. At the very least, I could use a vocal call out from the battery commander to get me onto a target. Similar to an AWACS BRA call. A better solution would be to have the battery command vehicle send a cue signal to the launcher. The player would then accept this cue which would see that turret automatically slew towards the target and allow the player to lock it up. Many systems do this in real life, and is similar to how the system works when locking-up targets via the PPI. This system could also be used with current systems, such as the SA-8, when attached to a battery command vehicle with access to an early warning radar. This would allow improvement of current systems and use with future multi-vehicle air defense units.

 

Finally, the wrap-up

If you've stuck around this long, congrats you get a cookie. As I said I don't expect this post to garner much attention, and even if it does I don't expect any monumental changes to CA at this point. What I hope this can do is bring to light some of the fundamental issues with DCS air defense units and CA. The lack of unit variety, lack of fundamental command and control communication, and need to expand controlled units. I also hope I've proposed solutions that wouldn't require an unresonable amount of work to implement. Because lets face it, anything that pulls work away from modules that make money is hard to justify.

 

In my mind DCS is just as much about the AI units in the sandbox as the planes flying above it. So while any CA development is much appreciated, at this point it's not really expected. Improvements in air defense units would benefit everyone, however. With some behind the scenes work there can be a significant improvement in the AI performance. Hopefully, with the addition of some new systems the quality of scenarios can be improved.

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Hi RocketmanAL

 

Thank you for the well thought out feedback, it was an interesting read.

Obviously I can not promise any changes here and now, but I will certainly pass on / highlight the feedback to the team.

 

Thank you

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One of the best things about DCS, for me, is this forum when people with knowledge and insight makes me learn. So thank you and thanks for the cookie. You've read Ninelines survey as well, so hopefully some of it will come into fruition in the future.

Cheers!

 

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I agree 80% of the post.

 

Where I dont agree is that even old systems can be VERY effetive.

To understand we need to look at how the different systems were designed and for what purpuse.

 

Think about the russian airdefence as a onion. Many layers.....

The most common mistake by mission creators regarding airdefence is placing the SA6 SA10 SA11 in a group right next to each other.

Any of these in real life a about 5-15km apart. To illustrate: EWR/AWACS picks up a target that wiil be shared in the CC protocols. By the time the SA10 search radar picks up the SA10 TELAR is in lunch range. SA11s are spread around and i turn protecting the CC points and high value targets. Same principal...by the time time the snow drift emits the TELAR is in NEZ or slightly over. The SA15 and SA16 are networked with the Sphorka radar that is networked with the EWR/AWACS/BIG BIRD/SNOW DRIFT.

And then there are the IR sams reciving data/commands from the CC.

 

The real problem is indeed the grouping logic. Unless all the units are in the same group they are sitting ducks.

Then there is the GREEN/RED state. Nothing in between.

When we will be able to LINK different units and have a better combat logic one of the most dangerous task is going to be SEAD/DEAD.

If you are interested in a lay out pm me and we can chat about it.

 

But the unit mechamism needs an overhaul....GUI needs an ovehaul and more options(better combat logic).

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Hi RocketmanAL

 

Thank you for the well thought out feedback, it was an interesting read.

Obviously I can not promise any changes here and now, but I will certainly pass on / highlight the feedback to the team.

 

Thank you

 

Thanks for passing it forward! I honestly didn't expect anyone of note to see it, really just wanted to get some discussion going and some ideas out there. So I'm glad it will hopefully be useful.

 

If I can help with testing or anything I'm happy to help make the game better.

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NOTE

All target data is shared within one group. If you want several air defence batteries to be able to receive targets data from one search radar, just put them all in one group.

 

I did a test some time ago and at least didn’t work for AAA and IR Defences including in a battery. I will test again but, they reacted to the 5 km visual contact instead the Early aware of the radar battery. That’s was not correct and I hope is already fixed


Edited by pepin1234

[sIGPIC][/sIGPIC]

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NOTE

All target data is shared within one group. If you want several air defence batteries to be able to receive targets data from one search radar, just put them all in one group.

 

Thanks for the insight! What data is passed to the launchers? Heading and range? 3D coords? What is the data rate? Maybe it's better to characterize it has there is no ability for the player controlled launchers to see an active feed from the search radar? The fact that Deka had to give the HQ-7 its own dedicated imaginary search radar indicates that they were not able to tap into the battery search radar feed directly to show the player. If the data is available, but not the live feed, that would be useful at least for verbal cueing.

 

Putting multiple batteries in the same group is a solution, but to me that's not the ideal solution. Most batteries are going to operate autonomously in the field. If they have access to a radar feed they will make use of it, but they aren't going to be under the same command necessarily. In real life there are also physical datalink considerations. Is it RF or hard lined? What's the max distance between units? LOS requirements? Currently I don't know what of that is modeled, if anything.

 

It also ignores the fact that there are standalone EW radars that contribute to a networked air picture, but aren't a part of a air defense system.

 

For a DCS specific standpoint, that also causes mission planning and trigger issues. What if I want a single battery to spawn in late? While from the scenario standpoint it would be part of a group equipped with the search radar, functionality it wouldn't be able to tap into it. Scripting can also cause problems. Scripting based on alarm state, which skynet does, kind of breaks down when you have multiple batteries spread out. You don't want a battery activating 50 kms away from the target when you only want to activate the one 10 km away.

 

So the problem changes from "I have to give every battery a search radar" to "My air defenses are not going to operate as I'd like and I am not able to build the scenario as I'd like."

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Is there a script code for grouping and ungrouping units?

 

Yes and no. No, there is no command or function to group/ungroup/split existing units on the fly, neither in the mission editor nor in the API. Yes, it can be done via scripting, which would involve defining new groups for the units to be un-/grouped, removing the existing group and replacing it with the newly defined one/-s (cf. coalition.addGroup()).

If you search the mission editor forum for addGroup you should be able to find further info wrt. this workaround.

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Yes and no. No, there is no command or function to group/ungroup/split existing units on the fly, neither in the mission editor nor in the API. Yes, it can be done via scripting, which would involve defining new groups for the units to be un-/grouped, removing the existing group and replacing it with the newly defined one/-s (cf. coalition.addGroup()).

If you search the mission editor forum for addGroup you should be able to find further info wrt. this workaround.

 

 

Thank you, one more question before I commit to digging the old rattlebucket: Is it possible to accomplish that workaround within the player's own group or is it limited to AI only groups?

B450 Gaming Pro Carbon AC, Ryzen 3600, 32Gb DDR4 3600MHz, GTX1070Ti, CH Stuff, Oculus CV1

 

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Thank you, one more question before I commit to digging the old rattlebucket: Is it possible to accomplish that workaround within the player's own group or is it limited to AI only groups?

 

The replacement-workaround would literally remove, i.e. delete, the units from the map during runtime before being replaced, so you would have to reassign players to those units/slots. And that's where it becomes problematic: defining the new group/-s via DCS-API, i.e. lua tables, does not support player specification or (re-)assignment.


Edited by Catweedle
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  • 1 month later...

A major problem for me is making AI aircraft press home their bombing attacks instead of u-turning and running for home the instant they see a SAM unit, even if the SAM hasn't fired at them!

I've spent hours in the editor trying to solve it, sometimes I think I've cracked it, but then the problem arises again and I'm back to square one!

I started this thread about it recently and included screenshots of what I mean, and would welcome any morsels of advice-

 

https://forums.eagle.ru/showthread.php?t=288379

 

EDIT- It's just dawned on me that AI pilots probably won't make suicide runs with bombs and who can blame them..:)

They prefer air-to-ground missiles and i've added a bit to that effect in my linked thread.


Edited by PoorOldSpike
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  • 1 month later...

Hello there, before i start, may i receive my cookie please ? ;)

 

First of all let me adress myself to you RocketmanAL, a very intersting post you got there, one aspect of the game that i'm really starting to enjoy more and more, the whole aspect of DCS : Combined Arms as a whole. I knew about this module for a long time but never found the right moment to decide myself into taking the step to buying it, i've always been way more focused on flying and blinded by the beautiful F-16 that finally made its appearance a year ago.

The F-16 is a beautiful piece of equipment and progressing slowly but surely, i really wanted to dedicate my time to it all this while, which i don't regret and am still enjoying it very much with each little update that comes along to it.

Yet the little i knew and saw of Combined Arms really kept itching me deep inside, i had to get it one day and finally took the step with the recent Halloween sales.

 

There is simply no words to describe how fun and interesting it is to, well, combine :laugh:, high fidelity planes to ground forces, and allow the 2 to be manually played. I've been a long time player of all the Arma series, dating back to the very first Operation Flashpoint for the ones who know, and as a pilot in the soul, i always loved being able to support ground forces from the air, and even more when those ground forces were actually human players, as that adds so much more to it. Of coarse the difference between the Arma series and DCS is that they focus on the 2 opposing sides, one is focused on ground troop combat with "arcadish" air warfare, while the other one, DCS, focuses on air Warfare with "arcadish" ground combat.

Since my purchase of CA, i've been playing around in the editor with the controlable ground vehicles and have been enjoying myself quite a bit, as much as DCS is not really aimed at the ground details, terrain mesh, building details, vegetations details, etc, maps like Syria clearly do make it feel like an upgrade from the Caucasus map, and that goes to show that with time, CA really has a potential to become even more interesting just because of how good the map details become.

 

Anyways, i can totally understand with what RocketmanAL says about CA not being allowed massive dev time, and that is indeed very understandable, yet i feel like the community is clearly missing out big time on it, even in the state that CA is (More of an arcade ground battle simulator), the possibilities are massive, very few multiplayer servers actually include or allow the use of CA by players. I'll dive a little more into what's on my mind with the possibilities that CA could bring to mutliplayer servers, but first i wanted to finish off by saying that if only CA was put forward a bit more and known by a bigger part of the multiplayer community, with options to players on MP servers to use it, maybe CA wouldn't feel like a toy taking the dust in the majority of the time.

 

Talking about the possibilities this module brings about, i've been playing regularly on this MP server that has frequent human ATC, AWACS and recently JTACs. The immersion and fun you get from having more human communications and interactions is truly remarquable. But with the recent implementation of the JTAC, some ground units were actually added and made controlable for anyone having CA and willing to use those units, whether to drive them to the front line and manually shoot targets or command them from the F10 map like a Commander and make it feel a bit more like Command & Conquer :P I discovered that possibility and immediatly started using units manually going around shooting what i could find, until an A10 pilot noticed me and asked if i wanted to direct him for some strikes and buddy lasing targets which i of coarse accepted and went on doing it from the vehicle i was controlling. It was simply super fun ! This whole experience could be made so much better with certain things being developped further, but even as it is, it made me discover a whole new aspect of playing DCS.

Now it would really only come down to mission/servers owners to create interesting scenarios with the CA units, i've been dying to see the server i play on create 2 or 3 different frontlines with each having a blue force available to control by CA owners, literally allowing willing players to do something a little different than flying once in a while and still having tons of fun with the CAS pilots around.

 

Coming to the whole SAM aspect of CA, i have to agree that at this point and with the fact that DCS is mainly based around air warfare plus taking into account the negatives of DCS ground warfare (ground details, terrain mesh, building details, vegetations details, etc), the SAM is probably one of the most fun units to play, no need to have highly detailed terrain mesh or anything related to ground level, because you're mostly gonna be focusing on everything above the ground of coarse :smilewink: And with that, nothing like downing a plane overflying you carelessly, or downing a jet engaging the CAS flights you're working with :spam_laser:. I found the idea of using SAM system to help out friendly unit super fun but could see it being just as fun if you were to be put on the opposite side trying to shoot down the players. Any well designed MP "dynamic" mission could easily allow the red units to be player controlled and therefore allow anyone with CA the possibility to jump into a red unit at any moment and defend whatever the area is from what ever the blue side is launching at them, while of coarse adding the human aspect in it and not relying on poor decision making AIs.

If a server has a well designed front line, with an equal amount of red and blue units about to fight off each other, nothing better than allowing someone to go out using a Tunguska or Tor, or even an Abrams, T-90 and push that frontline either way ;)

 

So to finish off, first of, i'll give you a big cookie if you made it all the way to here :P Second, all i want to say is that CA is definitely an awesome addition to my modules, really glad i have it, sad that it is still unkown to a lot of players and sad to not see it being used widely on MP servers or even SP missions, why not. Really hoping the module has intentions by ED to be worked on further, the possibilites it brings could be endless !

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 8/30/2020 at 10:41 PM, SFAL said:

Where I dont agree is that even old systems can be VERY effetive.

 

In 1999 officially one F-117A (Stealth bomber) and one F-16 were shot down by Neva system S-125, which was designed in 1950's. So, I would say: "Yes, it can be very effective." It just depends how it's used.

Cmptohocah=CMPTOHOCAH 😉

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  • 1 month later...

I believe the next release of DCS Liberation will integrate SKYNET 2.0 with HighDigitSAMs. I've been playing DCS Liberation for awhile and SKYNET does make SEAD much more challenging.

 

https://github.com/walder/Skynet-IADS/blob/master/README.md

 

https://github.com/Auranis/HighDigitSAMs

 

I also want to build a MANTIS system (MOOSE scripting). It looks similar to SKYNET in it's ability to mimic real world IADS. 

 

https://flightcontrol-master.github.io/MOOSE_DOCS/Documentation/Functional.Mantis.html

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  • 4 months later...
On 8/30/2020 at 1:27 PM, RocketmanAL said:

I'm making this thread as a result of many months of testing and contemplation of DCS air defense units. I know that this will be long and probably only a handful of people will read the whole thing. However, I hope at least one dev will take notice as I truly believe CA can be made into something so much greater than the sum of its parts.

 

Just to preface this, I have extensive experience with DCS air defense units and CA as a mission maker, operator, and as a guide maker. My guides include SEAD reference guides, CA guide videos, and flare effectiveness studies.

 

F-18C Flare Effectiveness Study

 

SEAD Reference Guide

 

My research for the SEAD Guide and my experience as an engineer gives me a solid perspective on how this system should work, at least for the level of current implementation within DCS and CA. So, in writing this I hope that it's clear that I'm not just writing this as a kneejerk reaction. I'm making a critical assessment of the current system, from my personal perspective as a consumer, and how I think it can be improved. I know that 98% of people who play DCS do it to fly jets, and I totally understand that. However, as a pilot I will say that a large portion of the DCS experience revolves around the ground units as well. Not having air defenses on the same level as the aircraft not only does the air defenses a disservice, but also the experience of the pilots flying against them.

 

I also understand from a dev point of view CA is a low margin product. It will never sell in the numbers of even the most modest plane module. That every dev hour spent on CA could be used to work on a feature of the 18 or 16 that the vocal community is asking for. With that in mind, I'm not asking for anything like a full interior modeling of the SA-11 launcher. In my suggestions I attempt to keep the expectations as grounded as I can, in hopes that spending a few hours programming or modeling can result in significant results.

 

So, buckle up boys and girls.

 

Air Defense Units: Too few, too old, and lacking interoperability

One of the biggest problems I see with the air defense units in DCS is that there are just not enough variety of air defense units to keep things interesting. Usually there are only a handful of SAMs you will see being used most scenarios. SA-10, SA-11, SA-15, Patriot, SA-9, MANPADS, ZSU-23, and AAA. Sometimes you'll see a SA-2 or SA-3, but those are more suited for period scenarios as they generally aren't survivable in a world of AGM-88s. Of the main countries (Russia, US, countries within maps), there is significant difference in systems modeled and systems in inventory. Below is a list (from Wikipedia so not 100% right but gets the point across, don't @me) detailing some of missing air defense units in DCS. I'm also including radars, as the variety of EW radars is particularly poor in DCS.

 

Russia

SA-17

SA-12

SA-20/21

SA-22

S-350E

9S15

PPRU-1

Tin Shield

 

Georgia

SPYDER

Mistral

57mm AAA

Ground Master 400

Ground Master 200

36D6-M

ST-68U

Tin Shield

 

Iran

Sayyad-1

Sayyad-2

Bavar-373

Raad

Ya Zahra

Herz-9

Khordad 15

Qaem

 

Saudi Arabia

Mistral

Crotale

THAAD

Skyguard

AN/FPS-117

AN/TPS-43

 

 

Oman

Mistral

NASAMS

Crotale

THAAD

RBS-23

 

Syria

SA-17

SA-22

 

Turkey

SA-20/21

HISAR

PMADS

KORKUT

Skyguard

KALKAN

AN/MPQ-44

AN/FPS-71

AN/MPQ-64

AN/FPS-117

 

Israel

Arrow

David's Sling

Iron Dome

 

 

Now let me be clear. I don't expect all, or even most, of the above listed systems to be modeled in DCS. Some there is too little information on to model, some probably have security concerns (especially on the Russian side), and some are not worth doing one-off modeling of. However, there are definitely a few in here that would be "easy" to implement and could be used in multiple countries. Mistral and NASAMS, for example, already have in game assets that can be used to cut down on development time. Other systems, like SA-20/21, are extremely high performance and would greatly bring the air defenses units closer to real-world and modern capabilities while using a lot of the work done on the SA-10.

 

Another big issue is that the average age of the defenses in DCS is probably close to 40 years. Most of the Russian stuff is ancient compared to what is currently fielded, especially in Syria. This why I'm not extremely excited about the SA-5. While it'll be nice to get a new long-range SAM, its capabilities are really limited on the modern battlefield. It really is a bit jarring to be flying a 2000's era F-18 or F-16 and flying against SA-10s and SA-8s from the 1970s. In some missions even 1950s era SA-2 or 1960s era SA-3. I do think it's great to have these units for period missions and missions that don't want a high level of difficulty, but for all the "bleeding" edge tech on the aircraft a lot of these systems feel like sitting ducks. Especially with how the default air defense logic works. Starting with PG, and now with Syria, people are wanting to replicate real-world conflicts that are ongoing. This means we need more modern systems that can properly replicate the conflicts. There is also a distinct lack of anti-ballistic missile capability. The SCUD was a fantastic introduction to DCS, especially for period missions. However, the SCUD can be intercepted by a variety of systems nowadays. The Patriot within DCS currently should be able to, but cannot. The Aegis system on ships should also have a capability to do so. I'm sure adding this capability would be a significant drain on resources, but missile defense is a huge part of dynamic with Israel. Leaving it out leaves out a large part of the equation for the region, as well as in PG.

 

A lot has been made of the poor logic of the SAMs, so I will not belabor that point. I have seen the discussion of a new third party IADS module, which I'm excited to hear more about. In the meantime, the sub-par default logic can be improved by scripting like Skynet. I think that Skynet sets a great ground work for additional improvement on integrated SAM systems. What I want to bring up is the base issue I see with air defense units in DCS, the inability to pass target information between groups and potentially between units. This is an area that I would really love a devs insight into, to make sure I understand what's going on correctly. It is my understanding, based on discussions with Deka folks and my own mod work trying to make a controllable SA-11, that there is no way to pass target data between individual units within a group nor between groups. So, for example, in DCS each SA-10 battery requires its own Big Bird EW radar to have access to its radar feed. In real-life, one Big Bird can support multiple batteries through a central command post. In DCS there is no way to pass the radar feed from one battery to the next. This is a major limitation as the whole point of having an EW radar is to provide cueing to SAM systems of targets nearing their engagement WEZ. Currently, having EW radars not associated with a SAM battery are pretty useless outside of a script like Skynet. I believe this limitation also passes to launchers not being able to receive target data from a battery command post in the same group. In the lua files for the SA-11 launcher it makes mention of a "unit's own searching radar (for 2 targets)", implying that there is a simulated search radar attached to the SA-11 launcher that allows it to cue to targets. For the SA-10 launchers there is a maxtargetdetection range listed, as well as a ECM variable. These are indicative of a radar being attached to this unit in some capacity as well. I'll be the first to admit I am not good with lua, and in the SA-11 launcher file there is mention of "external target designation from CC". So, I am seeking confirmation that this understanding is correct. However, talking with a Deka dev who was working on the HQ-7 he indicated that passing target data from a search radar to a launcher was not possible. Down the road this will need to change to enable true IADS capability and, until it is fixed, limits what can be done with the units to make them controllable by players.

 

Combined Arms: Expanded Controllable Launchers

Of the systems deployed within DCS, ED has done a very good job of making a lot of them controllable. It's not a high-fidelity interface by any means but it's something. This mostly comes down to most of the SAMs being tactical with their own integrated search radar attached to the launcher. However, what's really lacking is medium-range SAMs that are controllable by players. Sticking to single unit SAMs for now, the primary candidate would be the SA-11. A while back I attempted to mod the SA-11 to make it controllable. I actually was able to create a Frankenstein’s monster that was controllable and could successfully track and engage targets beyond visual range. The only hang-up I ran into was getting the turret to slew in azimuth, it got hung up when trying to position the camera in the lua file for some reason. While the actual file has been lost to time, I am by no means a decent programmer. I mostly accomplished the mod by copying and pasting code from the SA-8 lua. Doing so I was able to make an almost fully controllable and functional SA-11, with an attached search radar to make up for the lack of connection to the command vehicle. A trained programmer could probably make short work of it in an official capacity. In fact, Deka has already implemented a controllable medium-range SAM with the Type 52B Destroyer. The 9M317 missile can reach around 40 km. Granted, it's not perfect. There is no search radar integration so you have to manually acquire the target, but it's the longest-range controllable SAM by far. However, it's a great starting point to make controllable medium-range SAMs like the SA-11.

 

As I mentioned the one part missing from the Type52B is the lack of a search radar display for the 9M317 operator. This leaves the operator having to scan visually for the target. Far less than realistic for a weapon system incorporating search radars. Similarly, as mentioned earlier, in making the SA-11 mod I was unable to tap into the radar feed from the SNOW DRIFT radar associated with the SA-11 via the battery command vehicle. To get around this I created a simulated search radar on the SA-11 launcher with the same parameters as the SNOW DRIFT. I've noted that Deka has done something similar with the HQ-7, adding a simulated search radar to every launcher. While it gets around the communication problem, it is obviously less than ideal. Until the intra group communications are resolved this problem will persist.

 

Combined Arms: Multi-unit Air Defense Systems

As mentioned before, none of the multi-unit air defense units are currently controllable in DCS. These are things like SA-2 or SA-10, where the radar and launcher are two separate vehicles. I believe the main reason for this is the above-mentioned lack of passing of radar information. For something like the SA-11 you can't send target data to the launchers. For the SA-10, I think it has to do with the launchers acting semi-autonomously and not relying on the target track radar itself to launch. Again, I would appreciate a devs insights into this element. This leaves a player unable to control a command vehicle and issue commands. So, assuming that issue, if it exists, can be resolved what is the best way for a player to control, say a SA-10? There is a main tracking radar, a couple of search radars, a command vehicle, and multiple launchers. The way that seems the easiest is to use the already implemented F10 map attack method. For those that don't know, you select a friendly unit on the map, select "Add Target", select an enemy you want it to engage, then select "Start Fire" to have it begin engaging. This is meant mainly for artillery or tanks, however as far as I can tell doesn't work for air defense units. You can select a target and tell it to fire, but it just seems to ignore the command and target whatever it wants. Conceivably, this method should be pretty straight forward to implement. It also provides a view more akin to a regional air defense commander, rather than a battery level commander.

 

The above method however does not replicate a tactical unit experience. While I have no misconceptions that we will ever get a fully modeled interior for an air defense unit, a proper PPI would get us most of the way there. The PPI can currently be accessed in the controllable SAMs, and provides functionality to acquire and engage targets via the radar rather than an optical site. Since this screen replicates the output from a search radar, it wouldn't be available to a SA-11 launcher operator. It would be available in the battery command vehicle. This set-up is currently implemented by the Deka HQ-7. The command vehicle can be controlled, with only the PPI accessible. They can be used to detect targets and cue human operator of the launchers to a target. I've yet to ever find a situation where more than me wants to run air defense. Therefore, it is necessary to be able to cue AI launchers to targets from a controlled command vehicle. Again, communication issue notwithstanding, there are a few ways to handle this that leverage systems already in place. The HQ-7 battery command vehicle will be the base for both.

 

The first would use the PPI as it usually works in the controllable units. The targets would show up and be clickable. Once clicked, the targets would be selected and the system will automatically determine which launcher will engage the target. For something like the SA-11 you'll be able to select as many targets as you have launchers, otherwise you'll have to de-select a target and select a new one. For something like the SA-2 you'll just select one target for engagement. There could be automatic mode where a launcher will engage automatically once the target is in range, or a command mode where the player presses the button to launch the missile. This one I would imagine will leave most of the behind the scenes functions intact, but provide at least some basic control over the battery from the command vehicle.

 

ZWYDalw

 

The next idea is to have a more sophisticated PPI that would display targets and assign them more realistically. All the current targets would be displayed on the screen and given a target number. Targets detected by other radars can even be displayed if the command vehicle is integrated into an IADS. The assigned number can either be in reference to the radar, or the IADS network. A specific target can then be assigned to a launcher if it's a system like the SA-11. Or can be an assigned target for a system like the SA-10. Again, there can be an automatic engagement mode where the system engages automatically, or manual where the player launches the missile. This method is more flexible because it can be used across any air defense unit with a command vehicle with minimal modification. I feel it also more realistically reflects how a commander would operate his battery.

 

bQRXgUC

 

From the launcher point of view, again referencing the SA-11, the launcher itself would benefit from an ability to receive target cueing from the command vehicle. The command vehicle would hopefully be player controlled, but more than likely will be AI controlled. Sticking a fake search radar on the launcher is not a good enough solution, in my opinion. At the very least, I could use a vocal call out from the battery commander to get me onto a target. Similar to an AWACS BRA call. A better solution would be to have the battery command vehicle send a cue signal to the launcher. The player would then accept this cue which would see that turret automatically slew towards the target and allow the player to lock it up. Many systems do this in real life, and is similar to how the system works when locking-up targets via the PPI. This system could also be used with current systems, such as the SA-8, when attached to a battery command vehicle with access to an early warning radar. This would allow improvement of current systems and use with future multi-vehicle air defense units.

 

Finally, the wrap-up

If you've stuck around this long, congrats you get a cookie. As I said I don't expect this post to garner much attention, and even if it does I don't expect any monumental changes to CA at this point. What I hope this can do is bring to light some of the fundamental issues with DCS air defense units and CA. The lack of unit variety, lack of fundamental command and control communication, and need to expand controlled units. I also hope I've proposed solutions that wouldn't require an unresonable amount of work to implement. Because lets face it, anything that pulls work away from modules that make money is hard to justify.

 

In my mind DCS is just as much about the AI units in the sandbox as the planes flying above it. So while any CA development is much appreciated, at this point it's not really expected. Improvements in air defense units would benefit everyone, however. With some behind the scenes work there can be a significant improvement in the AI performance. Hopefully, with the addition of some new systems the quality of scenarios can be improved.

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On 11/10/2020 at 2:50 PM, SparxOne said:

Hello there, before i start, may i receive my cookie please ? 😉

 

First of all let me adress myself to you RocketmanAL, a very intersting post you got there, one aspect of the game that i'm really starting to enjoy more and more, the whole aspect of DCS : Combined Arms as a whole. I knew about this module for a long time but never found the right moment to decide myself into taking the step to buying it, i've always been way more focused on flying and blinded by the beautiful F-16 that finally made its appearance a year ago.

The F-16 is a beautiful piece of equipment and progressing slowly but surely, i really wanted to dedicate my time to it all this while, which i don't regret and am still enjoying it very much with each little update that comes along to it.

Yet the little i knew and saw of Combined Arms really kept itching me deep inside, i had to get it one day and finally took the step with the recent Halloween sales.

 

There is simply no words to describe how fun and interesting it is to, well, combine :laugh:, high fidelity planes to ground forces, and allow the 2 to be manually played. I've been a long time player of all the Arma series, dating back to the very first Operation Flashpoint for the ones who know, and as a pilot in the soul, i always loved being able to support ground forces from the air, and even more when those ground forces were actually human players, as that adds so much more to it. Of coarse the difference between the Arma series and DCS is that they focus on the 2 opposing sides, one is focused on ground troop combat with "arcadish" air warfare, while the other one, DCS, focuses on air Warfare with "arcadish" ground combat.

Since my purchase of CA, i've been playing around in the editor with the controlable ground vehicles and have been enjoying myself quite a bit, as much as DCS is not really aimed at the ground details, terrain mesh, building details, vegetations details, etc, maps like Syria clearly do make it feel like an upgrade from the Caucasus map, and that goes to show that with time, CA really has a potential to become even more interesting just because of how good the map details become.

 

Anyways, i can totally understand with what RocketmanAL says about CA not being allowed massive dev time, and that is indeed very understandable, yet i feel like the community is clearly missing out big time on it, even in the state that CA is (More of an arcade ground battle simulator), the possibilities are massive, very few multiplayer servers actually include or allow the use of CA by players. I'll dive a little more into what's on my mind with the possibilities that CA could bring to mutliplayer servers, but first i wanted to finish off by saying that if only CA was put forward a bit more and known by a bigger part of the multiplayer community, with options to players on MP servers to use it, maybe CA wouldn't feel like a toy taking the dust in the majority of the time.

 

Talking about the possibilities this module brings about, i've been playing regularly on this MP server that has frequent human ATC, AWACS and recently JTACs. The immersion and fun you get from having more human communications and interactions is truly remarquable. But with the recent implementation of the JTAC, some ground units were actually added and made controlable for anyone having CA and willing to use those units, whether to drive them to the front line and manually shoot targets or command them from the F10 map like a Commander and make it feel a bit more like Command & Conquer 😛 I discovered that possibility and immediatly started using units manually going around shooting what i could find, until an A10 pilot noticed me and asked if i wanted to direct him for some strikes and buddy lasing targets which i of coarse accepted and went on doing it from the vehicle i was controlling. It was simply super fun ! This whole experience could be made so much better with certain things being developped further, but even as it is, it made me discover a whole new aspect of playing DCS.

Now it would really only come down to mission/servers owners to create interesting scenarios with the CA units, i've been dying to see the server i play on create 2 or 3 different frontlines with each having a blue force available to control by CA owners, literally allowing willing players to do something a little different than flying once in a while and still having tons of fun with the CAS pilots around.

 

Coming to the whole SAM aspect of CA, i have to agree that at this point and with the fact that DCS is mainly based around air warfare plus taking into account the negatives of DCS ground warfare (ground details, terrain mesh, building details, vegetations details, etc), the SAM is probably one of the most fun units to play, no need to have highly detailed terrain mesh or anything related to ground level, because you're mostly gonna be focusing on everything above the ground of coarse :smilewink: And with that, nothing like downing a plane overflying you carelessly, or downing a jet engaging the CAS flights you're working with :spam_laser:. I found the idea of using SAM system to help out friendly unit super fun but could see it being just as fun if you were to be put on the opposite side trying to shoot down the players. Any well designed MP "dynamic" mission could easily allow the red units to be player controlled and therefore allow anyone with CA the possibility to jump into a red unit at any moment and defend whatever the area is from what ever the blue side is launching at them, while of coarse adding the human aspect in it and not relying on poor decision making AIs.

If a server has a well designed front line, with an equal amount of red and blue units about to fight off each other, nothing better than allowing someone to go out using a Tunguska or Tor, or even an Abrams, T-90 and push that frontline either way 😉

 

So to finish off, first of, i'll give you a big cookie if you made it all the way to here 😛 Second, all i want to say is that CA is definitely an awesome addition to my modules, really glad i have it, sad that it is still unkown to a lot of players and sad to not see it being used widely on MP servers or even SP missions, why not. Really hoping the module has intentions by ED to be worked on further, the possibilites it brings could be endless !

Thanks to @RocketmanAL and @SparxOne, great reads.

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On 12/8/2020 at 2:45 AM, Cmptohocah said:

 

In 1999 officially one F-117A (Stealth bomber) and one F-16 were shot down by Neva system S-125, which was designed in 1950's. So, I would say: "Yes, it can be very effective." It just depends how it's used.

 

Well it is a matter to make a test with the S-125 Pechora but removing the P-19 and using an EWR far away instead. That was probably the way those fighters was downed. The Pechora system have a optical device to track air targets in silent mode until the very last moment of launch authorization.

 

If ED add the ability to track visually with realistic range for that optical device on the TRK unit (see real pictures, also our unit have it as ornament only) then we can do via AI this interception. The only you need to do is order Pechora add an specific air target already tracked by the EWR (on F10 view) and the optical device will help TRK radar start visual tracking and launch at the very last moment  also this option should be reserved for Expert AI level only because it is a high skill for the Sam operator level IRL.

 

Of course this level of simulation will not happen, because new modules F-18, F-16 and F-14 will be downed by the CA player commanders ones after other using 60s systems in DCS. Also those Fan boys coming from Micky Mouse simulators believe they are god with such a biased game. They will be so sad and will not accept such a realistic ambush tactics by SAMs using IRL tactics and ignored Hardware (the optical systems) by The Fighter Collection (western management owners of the Russian programmers job in ED) 

 

Please see my mission below as an example how to ambush a patrol with old systems. In one of my tests one unit was downed and the other was able to leave and come back again later to circle the TRK unit to avoid a launch. In my opinion this AI is over smart. Actually all the F fighters AI are on steroids over smart and all the RU AI are retarded as hell. You know...

 

 

60s SAM ambush.miz


Edited by pepin1234

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