Commodore Amiga Version
Rob "Bomber" Henderson remembers:
This was THE mega-sim of the Amiga years. The game was huge, the manual was huge, the key command reference card was huge, the gameplay was awesome, and for the Amiga, the graphics were just stunning - especially if you had the ability to run it on a higher spec like the 1200.
The sim was based around RAF Tornado operations, and your career followed the lines of the RAF, gaining respective ranks and medals.
You had a vast selection of training missions to help in teaching you how to operate the aircraft and it's equipment. The training really was far more complex than anything else I had seen or experienced in a military based flight sim. The sim re-created the fact that the Tornado is a 2 seater, and gave you full control over pilot and navigator cockpits.
You also had the ability to fly either the IDS or the ADV version ( bomber or interceptor ), known as the Tornado GR.1 and Tornado F.3 respectively.
The flight dynamics were mind blowing, and I ended up photocopying many of the charts and tables in the manual and having them stuck on the body of the Amiga and around the TV for quick reference!
The choice of weapons was vast, and all had unique characteristics.
The choice of weapons deployment methods was mind boggling. For example Paveway LGBs. Use the laser right? Yes, or you could do laydown, divebombing, toss bombing or manual. The main system for the LGBs was the TIALD pod, which is built internally on the IDS version for this sim ( the RAF GR.Mk4 Tornado ).
The training missions were done through several stages - you had basic training / conversion ( learning the basic flight operations and procedures plus using autopilot including terrain following ), then onto the TWCU - the Tornado Weapons Conversion Unit. This is where you learnt to fight with the Tornado and learn all you need to know about the avionics, radar and weapons plus all the defensive equipment.
Then onto the final stage the Tornado OCU, here you got to put all your training into effect and fly missions with other Tornados from your new squadron. The mission planning was very complex on the multi-aircraft missions and exact time-keeping was essential as some of the attack patterns were very elaborate. You could have eight Tornados attacking an airbase for example, but all coming in from different directions all at the same height ( to confuse air defenses ) but with maybe even as little a second or two between the attacks to avoid any mid-air collisions or getting fragged by someone else's bombs. There was also a short course at the ADV OCU, where you found out how to use the Skyflash and Sidewinder missiles, plus using the cannon in air-air engagements.
The flight planning on the PC was as realistic as you can get - in fact as far as I am aware, the basic software for the planning in the sim was MORE advanced than anything that the real RAF had in operation at the time. The RAF now use an advanced mission planning computer which is supposedly a direct development from what was seen in the Tornado sim.
Sadly, on the Amiga, the campaigns were made up of fixed objective missions and you had no real control over the preparations or target selection. This decision was made due to a lack of power on behalf of the Amiga.
One other fine testament to this sim is this : at the RAF College Cranwell ( where all trainee RAF Officers go plus everyone who applies to be aircrew in the RAF and Royal Navy ) there was a cockpit setup in the main reception room - running Di's Tornado all day long - on which you were encouraged to get some flying time on ( when you had spare time during the interviews and tests you had to do ) as they thought it was good preparation for your possible future career as a fighter pilot!!
The main campaigns were set in a European environment, although there was no actual specified enemy force - it was just taken as a military body equipped with the latest Soviet built hardware. On some versions, the campaign was completely dynamic and you had full control over almost all options.
There was just SO much in this sim to talk about, so I'm just going to pick things as they come to mind in particular order :
Spin training was a must and it was a good idea to get alot of practice. The Tornado was equipped with a system called SPILS ( Spin Prevention and Incidence Limitation System ), which was basically a limited fly-by-wire system to stop you from going over the edge of the flight envelope. The only problem, there was no indicator to show the system was online or malfunctioning - a bit of a potential headache when the sim also included random system failures!
You had a key command to manually switch on or off the SPILS, which enabled you to try spin recovery procedures - the bottom line for which was " no recovery by 10,000ft AGL, EJECT IMMEDIATELY ".
Most of the spins were flat, but you also could end up with an inverted flat spin. It was a good idea to get experience with spins in various flying configurations - wings full forward, mid-sweep, full back, various flap and slat positions, underwing stores, gear down and so on.
The spin recovery was quite simple. Engines on full military, stick full back pressure plus aileron in opposite direction of turn, clean aircraft configuration up plus wings full forward, flaps up. After that it was hold the stick and pray as there were no guarantees of getting out.
You could perform belly landings if you were desperate - not just on the runways, but on ANY stretch of paved surfaces, including taxiways, motorways and roads.
Flaps could collapse and fail either to random occurrence or battle damage - leaving you stuck with flaps down full on one wing but clean on the other, resulting in a graceful, albeit terminal spin into mother earth.
There were engine failures and fires. Landing gear problems ( nose or main gear getting stuck ).
I remember on one training flight just as I raised the gear both engines exploded resulting in a hasty exit. The CRT's in both cockpits could say goodbye just to make life interesting, as could the radar, autopilot and HUD. If the HUD did quit at least you had a good selection of analogue backup gauges, but it didn't help with getting any weapons on target. Another thing to make life a little more exciting - the warning panel showing you what was go or no go could also fail !!
The TFR was an excellent piece of kit when operational, which could be linked to the autothrottles and nav waypoints.
The TFR could handle heights down to 100ft and over 700kts. You also had a little display called the E-scope. It was linked to the moving map display and sat nav system, and gave you a side profile of the terrain ahead. The terrain would become exaggerated on the display the higher your airspeed - fairly steep hillsides would turn into near vertical cliffs - which showed you what sort of manoeuvres the Tornado would be required to perform to avoid the terrain at the present speed.
On one flight in a campaign, I actually had a collision with a BMP IFV as I (just) cleared the crest of a hilltop. I was severely damaged but not down, but was able to nurse the aircraft back to friendly lines before having to get out and walk. In the de-briefing I was actually credited with a BMP kill !!
Without the TFR and with a bit of practice, you could get some very interesting manual flying down in the weeds at quite respectable speeds - literally a few feet above the tree tops. It has to be said, the impression of speed at low level, even on the Amiga was phenomenal.
LGB's were superbly modelled along with the TIALD laser designation system.
Just like the 1991 Gulf War footage, you could loose off 4 LGB's and if you timed the launch correctly, you could get four targets one after the other - bang!, bang!, bang!, bang! - quick as it is to read it.
The nav and targeting systems in the rear cockpit were incredibly hi-res and really did allow you to pick out one building in a street or complex and hit it with one bomb from 150ft @ 550kts with a near 100% success rate without causing collateral damage.
Weapons could be linked to the autopilot for automatic release over the target.
The JP-233 anti-runway was a monster and would shake the aircraft to bits while in operation.
Once all the mines had gone, the main canisters would be jettisoned automatically with a huge bang and leave you free to run away. The first time I used one, the effects on the aircraft were so bad I thought I had been hit by AAA.
ALARM anti-radar missile had several firing options.
You could have them programmed to be fired at a specific waypoint / target.
They could be locked and launched manually, or they could be launched randomly and made to loiter! The missile would zoom climb on it's rocket motor, then cut the motor and deploy a parachute, on which it would gently fall to earth while monitoring the surrounding area for miles around for any hostile radar signals.
If nothing was detected it would self destruct at a very low altitude. If something come on, it would ignite the motor, cut the 'chute and zoom on down for the kill.
The cannon shook the aircraft when fired and sounded awesome. Targets for the cannon could be designated by radar or you could aim manually using the fixed "iron sight".
Even the thrust reversers had operational limitations and if you used them outside these parameters you could end up with flame-outs or even catastrophic explosions.
The wing sweep mechanism could fail through battle damage making your escape back to allied lines and landing more than interesting.
The actual Tornado, although not a complete sloth, isn't the hottest of dogfighters ( even F-4's can run circles around them! ) but with a bit of battle damage it really made your life hard.
The game also featured a multi-player option, which was perhaps the weakest point of the whole sim.
You could only do head-to-head combat in the Tornado ADV using only Skyflash, Sidewinder and cannon. It was such a shame that the two man aspect of the Tornado wasn't developed for the 2 player option, with one player as the pilot and the other as the navigator, then have the ability to fly in the campaign mode.
The complexity of both cockpits and assocciated systems plus the intensity of the actual combat missions would have made this, without doubt, the most thrilling 2 player set up ever.
Perhaps it's time Digital Integration did an update on the game and brought it upto 2002 standards? If they could do co-operative multiplay as in pilot / nav, they would definitely have one customer here!