DCS Black Shark Helicopter Simulator Available Now

Warning, if buttons and knobs, fuel admixtures and lift-drag coefficients make you reach for an airsickness bag, Digital Combat Simulator's latest flight simulator may not be for you. Instead, I'm aiming this one at all you closet flight sim wonks who still find time to fiddle with sailplanes and ultralights in Microsoft's Flight Simulator X, or pop out of clouds in Hawker Hurricanes to ambush squads of Messerschmitt Bf 109's in Il-2 Sturmovik. Those of you who know the difference between a yoke and a joystick, or that a throttle is occasionally something used independently of either.

DCS Black Shark aspires to be a simulation of the single-seat, coaxial rotor Russian Ka-50 attack helicopter, and by simulate I might as well say "duplicate" as opposed to the more commonly invoked contextualization "pretend." There's very little pretending here. In fact this is the type of simulation that aims to model nearly everything, soup to nuts, then nuts to bolts to the helicopter's "flapping" and "hunting" hinges. We're talking everything from the aerodynamic forces affecting each sub-element of the Ka-50's airframe, to the detailed physics of the turbo-shaft engine -- each component's modeled independently, e.g. engine inlet, compressor, combustion chamber, etc. -- to the electrical power generation feeding the Ka-50's avionics, hydraulics, engines, and auxiliary power.

While there's an almost blasphemously simplistic arcade mode available if you just want to hop in and shoot stuff, I can't say I've ever seen a sim half as obsessed with modeling the minutia both over and under the hood. Just getting the thing started can take an hour or more if you do it by the book and run through all the preflight systems checks. (The printable manual is over 350 pages.)

Don't take my word for it, just have a look at the DCS Ka-50 systems modeling page. And don't expect a lot of hand holding if you go poking around the rest of the site. These guys are aiming at enthusiasts, not so much fans of Crimson Skies or Ace Combat. Thank goodness. If anything justifies the use of computers as gaming machines for hyper-enthusiasts, it's study sims like these.

(The $50 English version is available to purchase and download here, with a boxed version to follow in early 2009.)

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