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To Roll or Rudder... for Air to Air Refueling


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I am getting better at Air to Air Refueling and noticed that I could be using roll too much instead of rudder.  I saw some posts that highly recommended using the rudder when you need to move horizontally a small amount and others said that they did not own decent pedals and that roll was fine.  Before I force myself to break the habit of rolling I thought I would check with the community.  I know this could be a personal preference issue but I have noticed I still get into those dreaded up and down oscillations.  At first I thought it was the refueling plane hitting turbulence but now I think it is me trying to roll the aircraft.  Other posts have corroborated this.  Any thoughts?

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Don't do horizontal alignment up close. 🙂 Generally, I use roll, but the real trick is to avoid any horizontal corrections whatsoever. Rolling displaces the probe in both horizontal and vertical plane, but using the rudders introduces a sideslip, which increases drag, which in turn requires compensating with the throttle. As it happens, it's Hornet's sluggish throttle response that always gave me more grief than horizontal alignment.

 

As for PIO, I found Hornet is extremely prone to it with my CH stick. I fixed it by applying a 10% curve, which made it much more controllable. The problem is, I suspect, that the real Hornet's flight stick has linear response, high stick forces and a lot of travel. This is far more precise than a desktop stick. Of course, my stick has a bit of a deadzone in the center, which makes the problem worse.

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RW, you sort minor lateral issues with rudder, it’s only the one motion that is changing then, if you roll a little, then the correction onto the basket is more complicated due to having to reverse roll and pull a little.

 

Lateral displacement - rudder.

Vertical displacement - elevator.

 

Rolling will imbue more variables than necessary.

 

Alien desktop PC, Intel i7-8700 CPU@3.20GHz 6 Core, Nvidia GTX 1070, 16GB RAM. TM Warthog stick and Throttles. Saitek ProFlight pedals.

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Thank you for the responses.  Both perspicacious although they are not in agreement.  I wouldn't say they are diametrically opposed either. 

4 hours ago, Dragon1-1 said:

Don't do horizontal alignment up close. 🙂 Generally, I use roll, but the real trick is to avoid any horizontal corrections whatsoever. Rolling displaces the probe in both horizontal and vertical plane, but using the rudders introduces a sideslip, which increases drag, which in turn requires compensating with the throttle. As it happens, it's Hornet's sluggish throttle response that always gave me more grief than horizontal alignment.

 

As for PIO, I found Hornet is extremely prone to it with my CH stick. I fixed it by applying a 10% curve, which made it much more controllable. The problem is, I suspect, that the real Hornet's flight stick has linear response, high stick forces and a lot of travel. This is far more precise than a desktop stick. Of course, my stick has a bit of a deadzone in the center, which makes the problem worse.

I agree that the biggest problem is the throttle but what can anyone recommend for that?  I end up constantly looking back at the air speed.  If I fixate on the plane I am sunk.  As far as using the rudder, I will try to be more aware of reduced speed when using rudder.

4 hours ago, garyscott said:

RW, you sort minor lateral issues with rudder, it’s only the one motion that is changing then, if you roll a little, then the correction onto the basket is more complicated due to having to reverse roll and pull a little.

 

Lateral displacement - rudder.

Vertical displacement - elevator.

 

Rolling will imbue more variables than necessary.

 

I am very interested in the RW.  That is the main reason I do all this.  Are we under a similar situation as real pilots in regard to what we are discussing here.  That is controlling PIO by using rudder to correct lateral position.  If I understand Dragon1-1 correctly - maybe not.  What he typed made sense to me:  "I suspect, the real Hornet's flight stick has linear response, high stick forces and a lot of travel. This is far more precise than a desktop stick".   

 

I have been trying to figure out if these real pilots have something I don't.  In a nutshell the answer would be YES - Courage.  As far as eye hand coordination - Yes again.  However, I can't believe they are practicing more than many of us at aerial refueling.  The ease we have of getting right behind the refueling plane and practicing is not something real pilots can do.  At the very least they have to submit a flight plan.  

 

I have been watching aerial refueling of real F/A-18s and pilots on the documentaries and YouTube (there are quite a few).  Granted they may only be showing the best case refueling.  What I have noticed is the plane never bounces up and down enough to go above the plane of the refueling aircraft or the pilot never has to unhook and hook back up.  When they first approach the drogue, there is movement between the plane and the drogue of at most a few meters or less.  The approaching plane's movement is always small, crisp corrections that seem to stop immediately.  Truly the ability of these pilots is remarkable.  But do they have the advantage of equipment that is far more responsive?  Again the answer would be yes.  Compare the price of tens of thousands of dollars of avionics equipment from McDonald Douglas or Lockheed Martin to our (what any of us would say is expensive on our budgets) $150 to $532.95 from Earl Scheib.  

 

I guess I will just keep practicing.  Thanks again for the insightful responses.

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RW is finer control due to the stick having a longer arm - the longer the arm, the finer the possible input. A short arm, say standard Warthog stick, although good - won’t have the same fineness. That will be what affects your vertical displacement. A PIO breeding ground if you are ham fisted and get out of sync. 
Rudder for lateral placement. 
If you are in a twin engine aircraft, you can fine tune your fore and aft movement through split throttle. 
Burner on one, and variable throttle on other - for instance if high and heavy, just to stay plugged in. 
I use RW methods due to they work, they are repeatable, and I spent a few years doing it in anger, lol.

Keep head OUT of cockpit when in close to tanker, no need to look in for speed.

Alien desktop PC, Intel i7-8700 CPU@3.20GHz 6 Core, Nvidia GTX 1070, 16GB RAM. TM Warthog stick and Throttles. Saitek ProFlight pedals.

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Also, in Hornet especially, you really, really need to stay ahead of the aircraft, particularly with the throttles. Reference the tanker and adjust the sight picture as needed. What takes the most practice, IMO, is the fact that the engines take a really long time (possibly unrealistically long) to spool up and down. This makes precise flying a pain, you need to think several seconds ahead of the situation. Again, don't look at the airspeed, look at the tanker.

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I now see that it was a mistake to keep looking at the air speed.  You lose the perception of what the tanker is doing.  Apparently with practice one can perceive minute changes in what the tanker is doing relative to one's own aircraft.  There is a video out there on refueling the F-16 which recommends looking at the fuel feed to get a more accurate picture of your speed and the speed of the tanker.  Of course I don't remember them saying how often to look at the fuel feed, but it sounds like looking at it at all is unnecessary when close to the tanker.  

 

Keeping my eyes on the tanker seems problematic with that brace for the cockpit glass arching right above the HUD.  Any thoughts about getting a better view of the refueling aircraft?  Do you change the zoom?  Some tutorials say zoom out.  Others say nothing but look like they are zoomed out quite a bit.

 

Also this variable throttle idea is completely new to me for a DCS application.  Are you saying each engine no longer has its own throttle on a twin engine aircraft?  I have heard of a variable throttle control for electric motors and such.  Some of those are pedals.  At least that is what little I remember.

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In the hornet, its quite easy to keep the wing pod on the tanker aligned with your hud and the cockpit rail...you can then just look at that and NOT your speed, or cockpit  and adjust accordingly. You will need to constantly adjust the throttle I find, in small amounts, as well as the jets attitude in relation to the tanker as it turns. I always find in the turn that the jet will be at quite a markedly different plane to the tanker, I guess due to weight and flight characteristics of the two aircraft.

 

I find the trickiest thing is to keep the right amount of slack in the hose, its real easy to slide forward or backwards and disconnect if you are not careful and as mentioned, you have to think ahead and be constantly adjusting...if you leave it too late, you have to put in a lot of throttle then immediately take it out again......or vice versa

 

Of course, that is what makes it so satisfying when you do it right. And if you are serious about it, then get decent hardware as it makes a world of difference if you can.


Edited by markturner1960

System specs: Scan 3XS i9 9900K @5ghz, 32GB Corsair veng DDR4 2666, EVGA GTX 2080ti Win 10. Reverb G2 , 50 inch 4K Phillips monitor. Real simulator FSSB R3 with F-16 SGRH grip and warthog with RS F-18 grip, plus Cubesim TM MFD's, Tir5. Winwing F-18 throttle, Tek creations UFC, panels. Cougar throttle & TUSBA, plus ICP for the Viper. MFG crosswind rudders. Jet seat and butt kicker..

VR Settings: 90% (90 & 100 ), motion re projection locked 45 FPS, MSAA x2, shadows off, water med, terrain low, draw distance med, no aniso. DCS PD =1.    15ms GPU frame time & super smooth....looks great too.

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I made too big of a deal about the arch and should have just asked what I was really wondering about.  That is how much zoom if any do you recommend?  Some people think it is important.  This is the last thing I am wondering about pertaining to aerial refueling for the moment.  

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Personally, none, as its all about flying formation on the tanker, for which you need the peripheral vision. I also find that taking my eyes off the position cues to go heads down to check fuel gauges etc does not help...I avoid looking into the cockpit as much as possible


Edited by markturner1960

System specs: Scan 3XS i9 9900K @5ghz, 32GB Corsair veng DDR4 2666, EVGA GTX 2080ti Win 10. Reverb G2 , 50 inch 4K Phillips monitor. Real simulator FSSB R3 with F-16 SGRH grip and warthog with RS F-18 grip, plus Cubesim TM MFD's, Tir5. Winwing F-18 throttle, Tek creations UFC, panels. Cougar throttle & TUSBA, plus ICP for the Viper. MFG crosswind rudders. Jet seat and butt kicker..

VR Settings: 90% (90 & 100 ), motion re projection locked 45 FPS, MSAA x2, shadows off, water med, terrain low, draw distance med, no aniso. DCS PD =1.    15ms GPU frame time & super smooth....looks great too.

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7 hours ago, OldFalcon said:

I now see that it was a mistake to keep looking at the air speed.  You lose the perception of what the tanker is doing.  Apparently with practice one can perceive minute changes in what the tanker is doing relative to one's own aircraft.  There is a video out there on refueling the F-16 which recommends looking at the fuel feed to get a more accurate picture of your speed and the speed of the tanker.  Of course I don't remember them saying how often to look at the fuel feed, but it sounds like looking at it at all is unnecessary when close to the tanker.  

 

Keeping my eyes on the tanker seems problematic with that brace for the cockpit glass arching right above the HUD.  Any thoughts about getting a better view of the refueling aircraft?  Do you change the zoom?  Some tutorials say zoom out.  Others say nothing but look like they are zoomed out quite a bit.

 

Also this variable throttle idea is completely new to me for a DCS application.  Are you saying each engine no longer has its own throttle on a twin engine aircraft?  I have heard of a variable throttle control for electric motors and such.  Some of those are pedals.  At least that is what little I remember.


The variable, or split throttle, just means that each engine can be controlled separately - heavyweight tanking in Tornado, we would sometimes go into burner on one, and vary the other engine for fine tuning/position keeping. Each engine still has its own lever!

Alien desktop PC, Intel i7-8700 CPU@3.20GHz 6 Core, Nvidia GTX 1070, 16GB RAM. TM Warthog stick and Throttles. Saitek ProFlight pedals.

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Probably should have mentioned I am not VR so asking about the zoom may be moot.  I have heard that VR is the way to go with aerial refueling because you get the depth perception of something so close.  Is it time to go with VR?  A couple of years ago the consensus (IMO) was that VR was not there yet and to go with 3 flat screens.  Trash the monitors and fork out the money for VR?  Oh man.  

 

Variable or split throttle - I am quite surprised.  I have not seen or heard or read about this anywhere in DCS.  I just queried all the key words and got nothing.  I then tried it.  Again surprised that I could get it working so fast.  I didn't even have to trim the plane that much.  Not that I am hooking up and staying hooked up to the basket yet, but the speed of the hornet is not jumping all over the place.  Changes to the throttle cause small and predictable changes to the speed.  And it is from the RW.  Which speaks to how well the plane is modeled.  

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a former hornet pilot told me that the bow wave would push the basket away, so that sometimes he had to approach it slightly offset and kick in rudder and thrust shortly before connecting, iirc... apart from that, once you are connected you basically fly in formation with the tanker. dunno what you guys do, but personally i dont use rudder in close formation.

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1 hour ago, OldFalcon said:

Probably should have mentioned I am not VR so asking about the zoom may be moot.  I have heard that VR is the way to go with aerial refueling because you get the depth perception of something so close.  Is it time to go with VR?  A couple of years ago the consensus (IMO) was that VR was not there yet and to go with 3 flat screens.  Trash the monitors and fork out the money for VR?  Oh man.  

 

Variable or split throttle - I am quite surprised.  I have not seen or heard or read about this anywhere in DCS.  I just queried all the key words and got nothing.  I then tried it.  Again surprised that I could get it working so fast.  I didn't even have to trim the plane that much.  Not that I am hooking up and staying hooked up to the basket yet, but the speed of the hornet is not jumping all over the place.  Changes to the throttle cause small and predictable changes to the speed.  And it is from the RW.  Which speaks to how well the plane is modeled.  

 Well as someone who went from a 65 inch 4K monitor with track iR to VR ( Reverb G2) at Christmas, I would absolutely recommend going VR it will transform your experience. Its not without it's issues and compromises, but I would not go back and absolutely love flying in VR now.....Formation flying, dogfighting, everything is just so much better. There is some compromises, albeit small, in visual clarity outside the cockpit, but with  ( a lot in my case) careful tweaking and testing, this can be minimized. Of course, you will need high end kit to really see the benefits. 


Edited by markturner1960

System specs: Scan 3XS i9 9900K @5ghz, 32GB Corsair veng DDR4 2666, EVGA GTX 2080ti Win 10. Reverb G2 , 50 inch 4K Phillips monitor. Real simulator FSSB R3 with F-16 SGRH grip and warthog with RS F-18 grip, plus Cubesim TM MFD's, Tir5. Winwing F-18 throttle, Tek creations UFC, panels. Cougar throttle & TUSBA, plus ICP for the Viper. MFG crosswind rudders. Jet seat and butt kicker..

VR Settings: 90% (90 & 100 ), motion re projection locked 45 FPS, MSAA x2, shadows off, water med, terrain low, draw distance med, no aniso. DCS PD =1.    15ms GPU frame time & super smooth....looks great too.

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If you're having up and down PIO my guess is that you have a death grip on that stick. Try holding it with your fingertips.

Also, when applying up or down stick, don't wait for the correction to take effect. Just give it a touch, and then recenter the stick.

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5 hours ago, OldFalcon said:

Probably should have mentioned I am not VR so asking about the zoom may be moot.  I have heard that VR is the way to go with aerial refueling because you get the depth perception of something so close.  Is it time to go with VR?  A couple of years ago the consensus (IMO) was that VR was not there yet and to go with 3 flat screens.  Trash the monitors and fork out the money for VR?  Oh man.  

 

Variable or split throttle - I am quite surprised.  I have not seen or heard or read about this anywhere in DCS.  I just queried all the key words and got nothing.  I then tried it.  Again surprised that I could get it working so fast.  I didn't even have to trim the plane that much.  Not that I am hooking up and staying hooked up to the basket yet, but the speed of the hornet is not jumping all over the place.  Changes to the throttle cause small and predictable changes to the speed.  And it is from the RW.  Which speaks to how well the plane is modeled.  

 

IMHO regarding VR yes. It is stunning in VR, however it does still have the weakness of things off at a distance not being sharp.

Just a guess on my part I would say probably now around 90% of those that try VR love it and stick with it. There are still some though that it is just not good enough yet for them. For me it is the immersion that outweighs image clarity. 


Edited by dburne

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I haven't tried refueling for months, I could never do it, but I thought I'd give it a quick try in the Hornet last night. I only fly in VR and I've always tried by using the often suggested method of not looking at the basket but at a fixed point in space and simply flying in formation with the tanker. But I discovered last night that actually in VR it's much easier to look at the basket, because you can see exactly where it is in 3D space. I used autopilot and RALT mode to fly formation with the tanker and use tiny movements of throttle and trim hat (no rudder) to hook the basket, all the while looking at the basket whilst making the adjustments. To my surprise I found it relatively easy to hook the basket using this method. I would say, if your control inputs are good enough, you can definitely refuel by looking at the basket if you're using VR.

 

My biggest problems remain flying smoothly enough where I can even get close to the tanker to fly formation and staying in the basket once I am hooked. And I can't do it if the tanker is banking, only if it's flying straight and level.

i7-3770 CPU, 32GB DDR3 RAM, Sapphire AMD Radeon 5700 XT, Oculus Rift S

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Better off to trim out rather than use autopilot. Its all practice - mostly formation flying over anything else. I always line up on the left of the tanker and fly in formation so that I get a feel for the speed etc before moving in behind. Glide in, connect, then formation fly while looking at a point  on the side of the tanker (not basket). 

 

I also found that its easier in VR and I also reduced the curves on my stick which helped me. Turned out I had them too curvy (15 I think) and wasn't able to get the movements small enough to do it until I dropped to 10. Others may well find this different but worth experimenting with.

 

Its not easy, its also perishable. I can just about manage f18 basket filling but finding boom planes (f16) really difficult.

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Yes, actually, thinking about it, I'll have to go back and check, but by the time I was at the basket I think the autopilot had disengaged anyway, it was just helping me to initially get steady and level with the tanker, but once I was there it was just tiny movements of trim and throttle, rather than the stick, to guide the probe into the basket. I also should also take another look at my curves, that's a good point. 

i7-3770 CPU, 32GB DDR3 RAM, Sapphire AMD Radeon 5700 XT, Oculus Rift S

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35 minutes ago, AlpineGTA said:

I haven't tried refueling for months, I could never do it, but I thought I'd give it a quick try in the Hornet last night. I only fly in VR and I've always tried by using the often suggested method of not looking at the basket but at a fixed point in space and simply flying in formation with the tanker. But I discovered last night that actually in VR it's much easier to look at the basket, because you can see exactly where it is in 3D space. I used autopilot and RALT mode to fly formation with the tanker and use tiny movements of throttle and trim hat (no rudder) to hook the basket, all the while looking at the basket whilst making the adjustments. To my surprise I found it relatively easy to hook the basket using this method. I would say, if your control inputs are good enough, you can definitely refuel by looking at the basket if you're using VR.

 

My biggest problems remain flying smoothly enough where I can even get close to the tanker to fly formation and staying in the basket once I am hooked. And I can't do it if the tanker is banking, only if it's flying straight and level.

 

Same way I do it utilizing the AP and trim hat. I want the AP hold to disengage as that still provides some dampening function for the aircraft whilst using the trim buttons to get lined up.

I have to look at the basket as I do not have vision that allows me to see it in my periphery.


Edited by dburne

Don B

 

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1 hour ago, Hoirtel said:

Better off to trim out rather than use autopilot. Its all practice - mostly formation flying over anything else. I always line up on the left of the tanker and fly in formation so that I get a feel for the speed etc before moving in behind. Glide in, connect, then formation fly while looking at a point  on the side of the tanker (not basket). 

 

I also found that its easier in VR and I also reduced the curves on my stick which helped me. Turned out I had them too curvy (15 I think) and wasn't able to get the movements small enough to do it until I dropped to 10. Others may well find this different but worth experimenting with.

 

Its not easy, its also perishable. I can just about manage f18 basket filling but finding boom planes (f16) really difficult.

Isn't that backwards? I thought increasing curves made your relative movements smaller when at the center. With a curve applied, it should be easier to make smaller movements near the center of the controls, at the expense of more exaggerated movements at the extremes?

Modules: Wright Flyer, Spruce Goose, Voyager 1

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2 hours ago, unlikely_spider said:

Isn't that backwards? I thought increasing curves made your relative movements smaller when at the center. With a curve applied, it should be easier to make smaller movements near the center of the controls, at the expense of more exaggerated movements at the extremes?

 

I thought I understood what was going on there with the curves but now I am not so sure.   A short time ago I reset my curves to straight lines per a suggestion on a couple tutorials.

 

Very convincing to go with VR and mothball the big screen.  I even started pricing some of these VR sets.  Perhaps I am not suppose to talk about $s here but the range of $s is an order of magnitude.  Almost 2.  I assume I need the expensive set to get the immersion we all want.  I am going to have to find one someplace and try it out.  

 

I have heard of using the autopilot and the trim for air to air refueling.  As far as using the trim goes -  once you get close to the tanker you all are saying you don't move the stick - you move the trim hat instead - correct?  Unless of course you need a large adjustment.  Are you all correcting your lateral movement with ailerons?  i.e. You have not mapped your rudder trim to the trim hat.

 

Really appreciate the discussion.

 

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3 hours ago, unlikely_spider said:

Isn't that backwards? I thought increasing curves made your relative movements smaller when at the center. With a curve applied, it should be easier to make smaller movements near the center of the controls, at the expense of more exaggerated movements at the extremes?

No you are right, thats what I meant. It is a personal thing, but I found I was having to make bigger physical moments for the tiny corrections needed. I increased my curves first and found it harder. Reducing them was a bit of a eureka moment. For me anyway (warthog stick) Worth trying if you are struggling. 

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2 minutes ago, Hoirtel said:

No you are right, thats what I meant. It is a personal thing, but I found I was having to make bigger physical moments for the tiny corrections needed. I increased my curves first and found it harder. Reducing them was a bit of a eureka moment. For me anyway (warthog stick) Worth trying if you are struggling. 

I understand. Thanks for the explanation, I will try.

Modules: Wright Flyer, Spruce Goose, Voyager 1

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Yes, I use only the trim hat, I don't move the stick. I manage to use autopilot levelling and the stick to get the probe aligned close enough that I only need small adjustments with the trim to catch the basket. I do not have the rudder mapped to the trim hat.

 

I think I saw someone mention that they use the rudder to align horizontally because rolling also causes a change in altitude. I think that's true and I've noticed this when using the trim, because if I tap it just once horizontally I usually also have to tap it once or twice up to keep the same altitude.

i7-3770 CPU, 32GB DDR3 RAM, Sapphire AMD Radeon 5700 XT, Oculus Rift S

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