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Len "Viking 1" Hjalmarson
20 Years of Military Flight Simulations on the PC by Len "Viking 1" Hjalmarson.

Flight sim guru Len "Viking 1" Hjalmarson chronicles the first 30 years of computer flight sims, the software, hardware, people and the culture.

The Growth Years: 1990-1996

Electronic Arts and Janes Combat Simulations

The minimum system requirements as specified on the original EF 2000box call for a 486 DX2/66 with 8 MB of system memory. In order to run with all graphics options at high resolution (640x480) and a good frame rate a Pentium 90 with 32MB was more like it.

Sometime around 1995 Electronic Arts struck a deal with Janes, of civil intelligence fame, to use their name on a new line of serious military simulations. Janeís Combat Simulations was born, with Paul Grace and Andy Hollis (who produced Strike Eagle II and III) the primary personalities involved.

In January, 1996 the first issue of PC ACE appeared on news stands and ThrustMaster released the F22 Pro.

Janeís/EA released Advanced Tactical Fighters, built on the US Navy Fightersengine but proving more popular than US Navy Fighters.

MSI released Back to Baghdad, an F16 simulation based on Desert Storm. Novalogicís F22 Lightning II hit the tarmac, and Philips Media released Fighter Duel. This prop simulation was specifically designed for multiplayer mayhem, was a landmark work graphically and the first to work online.

1996 saw the release of Andy Hollisí first Janes title, Longbow.

Dynamix released A-10 Tank Killer 2: Silent Thunder and Graphic Simulations released Hornet 3.0. Of these, the classic titles were Longbow and Hornet 3.0.

Longbowshould fairly be identified as the first of the modern systems simulations. It was accompanied by a thick manual on using the various radar modes and weapon systems of the AH-64D. It required dedication to learning the systems, particularly when the battle got hot, not to mention making best use of your wingman for joint tactics.

The steep learning curve was made easier by the first ever virtual instructor. A voice narration led the player step by step through the systems in a series of training missions. The instruction required a response from the player, so it was only possible to move through the missions by actually responding to the instructor. Longbow featured a semi-dynamic campaign system that was involving and convincing.

Screen Capture from Hornet 3.0

Back to Baghdad

Hornet 3.0 was almost as challenging, but using only 256 colors, didnít look as good. Nevertheless, Hornet was a realistic simulation of the weapons and targeting systems of the F-18 Hornet. The manual was written by an ex-naval aviator, and the set of training missions were extremely well done. Unfortunately, the campaign was a series of individual missions and was not very immersive. Hornet 3.0 was released for both the Mac and the PC.

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This article is ©2001 Leonard Hjalmarson and Thrustmaster ® and hosted with permission in the Flight Sim Museum. Unauthorised reproduction is forbidden.