A several days ago Eagle Dynamics set me up with the preview build for the DCS: F-15E Strike Eagle by RAZBAM. I’ve flown as much of it as I can and here are some of my first impressions of the airplane. I also try to answer some of your questions, talk about how it feels to fly and more!
Update: 05/26/2023 at 4:02 pm – A few have commented on the availability of Link16 and I’m confirming on what datalink capabilities are available.
How it feels to fly
One of the things that I was most keen to learn about the F-15E when I started to fly it is how much it feels like the F-15C. Also, how different it feels too.
When flown completely clean, the F-15C and E feel the most similar. This is where the weight and drag of the two are closest together and so it makes sense to me that they are closely matched here. The F-15E has a bit more power but also more weight and drag with the conformal fuel tanks and their extra pylons hanging in the wind while the F-15C is a bit more spirited thanks to a cleaner setup. That all changes once you start putting stuff on the pylons.
While the F-15A through D are air superiority fighters by design, the F-15E took that formula and turned it into a strike airplane. The result is an incredibly deadly airplane but it does spoil the clean fighter aesthetic and instead of “not a pound for air to ground” we have quite a few pounds for air to ground with the Strike Eagle.
Flying the Strike Eagle clean, without a loadout, is not really what this jet is about. I loaded the F-15E up with a bunch of different configurations and the number of weapons on the pylons is impressive but that also changes the handling quite a bit.
Takeoff roll is slow to start though speed builds steadily. Quite unlike the F-15C, F-16C or F/A-18C in DCS, once you reach pull-up speed things still happen slowly. You rotate but the aircraft only gently pulls up from the ground – afterburners screaming away but you’re still just slowly gaining altitude. Again, that speed builds quickly and soon you’re climbing through 10,000 feet but things do feel quite a bit more sluggish.
Flying the F-15E in a combat scenario requires managing speed quite a bit more than some of the other aircraft that I’ve compared it to. Lugging around more fuel and weapons means you lose speed quickly, so each move – every turn, bank, roll, or climb – needs to be carefully considered. Stay on top of and ahead of things and you’ll be good and treated to a jet that feels supremely confident flying low or high. Let things get out of hand and you’ll be stalling and seeing and hearing warnings.
For those wondering, the F-15E like the C model in DCS, does not have fly-by-wire but it does have a stability augmentation system that manages controls and helps ensure stability in various conditions. The F-15 design is basically stable and these systems help to ensure ease of control. That makes it feel a bit more analogue but with some of the bad habits smoothed over. The result? A middle ground between the fly-by-wire jets which are highly managed by the flight control computer and the analogue jets.
How it looks and sounds
Anyone familiar with DCS World will know that the bar has been set very high in recent years. Nearly everyone from the third parties to Eagle Dynamics themselves have pushed the boundaries of what is possible visually. RAZBAM do not disappoint here.
From inside to outside, the F-15E is crisply detailed with beautiful modeling and texture work everywhere. It holds up under close scrutiny and from a distance. The roughmet texture work inside and out is also exceptionally good.
I’m telling you stuff you already know because we’ve been seeing the screenshots for months now. I can now confirm, on my own PC, that it is indeed excellent. I think it also pushes the bar higher here than what we’ve seen with the M-2000C and AV-8B and also shows to me that RAZBAM have really progressed with their capabilities. The HUD and multi-function displays are crisper than anything they’ve done before.
Both when viewed from a wide angle as from above as well as at various angles and close up, the cockpit is impressively detailed. A match for the best in DCS World in my estimation.
Front cockpit views.
Rear cockpit views.
There’s also a lot of work that’s been done on the sounds already. From in-cockpit voice lines, a unique sounding series of RWR tones, audible nozzle sounds, to the extremely subtle but just audibly there thump of the radar moving back and forth, this module already has quite a bit there in the aural landscape too. I’m not sure if RAZBAM are done with the work here and there are some areas that might need a tune-up but it is already good.
I’ve created a video called “Low and fast with the DCS: F-15E.” There’s no music, just the sights and sounds of DCS: Sinai and DCS: F-15E.
Loading up the DCS: F-15E fills me with the nostalgia of the classic arming screen from MicroProse’s F-15E Strike Eagle III which I spent many an hour on. Selecting your loadout is kind of its own mini-game as there are a lot of different but sometimes exclusive configurations that the jet can be configured with.
Although this isn’t the F-15E’s job by role, you can absolutely configure it in a purely air superiority configuration with various combinations of up to eight air to air missiles including an all AMRAAM configuration that gives you eight of the capable medium range missile to sling at targets. And you still have room for 3 fuel tanks and around 30,000 lbs of fuel when so configured.
The included default loadouts include the following:
- AIM-120C x2, ACMI Pod, GBU-12 x4, TGP, NVP
- AIM-120C x2, AIM-9M x2, GBU-10 x2, TGP, NVP, Fuel Tank x2
- AIM-120C x2, AIM-9M x2, GBU-12 x9, TGP, NVP, Fuel Tank x2
- AIM-120C x2, AIM-9M x2, Mk-84 x3, Mk-82AIR x12
- AIM-9M x4, AIM-7M x2, Mk-20 x2, NVP, Fuel Tanks x2
- AIM-9M x4, Mk-20 x12, NVP, Fuel Tanks x2
Physical pylon restrictions mean that you often need to make choices. Do you want to use the right or left conformal station to load-up on bombs or do you want to put a Sparrow or AMRAAM on the semi-recessed stations that the F-15E inherited from the air superiority Eagles? You can load the jet up in a asymmetric configuration too with bombs on the left (or right) conformal stations and AMRAAMs on the right semi-recessed station.
You can also bring more Mk-84 500lb bombs, six per conformal station, than you can bring laser guided bombs as the lengthier GBU-12 500lb configuration means there’s only enough room for four. Tradeoffs everywhere. Still, when fully configured you can still bring nine GBU-12s plus the targeting pod plus a mix of four air to air missiles and a pair of fuel tanks all at once. Far more than with the Hornet or Viper!
Workflows and combat
It’s going to take me months to get fully accustomed to the Strike Eagle way of doing things. I had kind of hoped that the jet would be a bit more familiar in operation having learned my way through the Hornet (another McDonnell Douglass aircraft), the Viper and Thunderbolt II (air force configured jets), or even the Harrier, however, it has unique features too. I would say its a bit more Hornet than it is Viper or Thunderbolt.
To be clear, a lot of the switchology in the jet will be familiar to those who have flown other American fighter jets in DCS and in other sims. Looking around the F-15E’s big cockpit you’ll find a clean and clear set of buttons for most things from oxygen to lights to engine start-up. Most of the F-15E is going to be very familiar at that level.
What is taking me the time to get into the flow is with the jet’s multi-function panels. In overall concept, you’ll find that they work like something of a mix between the F-16, A-10, AV-8B and F/A-18 but are also their own thing. If you’re an F-16C or A-10C driver, the heavy reliance on HOTAS commands will be familiar but you’ll find yourself pushing a few more buttons on the panels than you would on those jets. At that point, its a bit more like a Hornet.
There are some nice features too where you can use the castle switch in combination with your own custom settings on the displays to choose which left, right and down movements will cycle through specific screens. You can develop a very specific workflow here if you want to!
There is a ton of capability with this jet. The
F-15E has Link 16 (currently confirming this), it has a much larger HUD than any other DCS jet, it has an incredible radar (which I just have only just scratched the surface with), and it carries all of the weapons that I talked about in the previous section. RAZBAM have also just gotten started in the weapons area as additional modern capabilities such as JDAM are coming later – for now its laser guided bombs, dumb munitions, and the full air to air package. Highly capable already but somewhat constrained compared to the way it will be when they are done.
In air to air, the F-15E can fight even while loaded out for a strike mission by using a radar that can see and track targets at incredible distances (80nm lock on is possible), with speed and altitude, and then by firing medium range missiles in BVR duels. Here the F-15E is great and it can essentially self escort its way to the target by swatting away less capable interceptors – almost with ease.
More sophisticated foes will probably necessitate a dedicated fighter sweep but that should surprise no-one. Dogfighting in such a configuration is a no-no however as the heavy jet would struggle almost immediately without jettisoning the heavy ordinance.
There is no AI yet for the F-15E. RAZBAM are going to implement one later on but until then the F-15E is, in single player at least, a single seat at a time experience. Quite unlike the F-14, the F-15E is fully functional from just the front seat. You can, absolutely, jump to the back seat if you want, but the real advantage of the F-15E is splitting the workload between two brains across the same distributed systems. I can see this being quite a bit of fun in multiplayer with the back-seater identifying targets while the front seat manages threats and flies the jet.
One of my regular readers had a great question about key bindings and if there were sufficient keybinds for different controls. In my experience so far, yes, I think most people will be satisfied with how RAZBAM have laid everything out in the key bindings.
RAZBAM do now have years of experience building modules for DCS World and they have learned to incorporate both individual button presses and toggles into most commands. There are axis and button presses for the TDC too – seems like an obvious thing but its good to see from the beginning.
Weapons mode switches are also well represented with the ability to select each mode (GUN, SRM, MRM) individually or as part of a cycle (MRM-SRM-GUN, GUN-SRM-MRM) and even some more unique combinations like GUN else SRM and MRM else SRM. Is there a configuration they haven’t thought of that you might want. I’m guessing maybe there is but I see an awful lot of good attention to detail on how people with different home setups can bind their controls.
Nearly but not quite ready
I know a few have already expressed some jealousy over having access to the preview of the F-15E. While I can say that it’s been fun to get an early look at it, it’s also clear to me that they are still hammering out a few bugs and sorting out some details. And that’s ok!
For example, one of the bugs that I noticed early on was pressing the weapon jettison button. The button became stuck to the in-position and the weapons didn’t want to jettison – not until I bound a key on my HOTAS for it anyways. I’ve had what I think may have been an isolated audio glitch too although I can’t be sure.
None of these should be taken as criticism right now because the jet is not out yet and nothing in this preview has caused me any significant concern. Hammering down these details is precisely what the team is very likely doing as it gets ready for an early access release. That’s why it hasn’t been released yet and putting up with some of those issues is par for the course with a preview.
Still, this is nearly there with the polish that such a complex bird will need. Will some of you find more problems after release? I have no doubt! But I still feel good about this module right now.
There’s a complex Venn-diagram forming in my head around who is going to love the F-15E Strike Eagle and who is going to give it a pass. Those who are specialists on other types of western jet fighters might also find the Strike Eagle’s unique combination of workflows to be disruptive to flying their other jets. Those looking for a clickable F-15C will probably struggle here too with the F-15E’s strike optimized configuration weighing down the type’s dogfight performance.
On the other hand, those looking for a more F-111/Tornado/strike bomber type experience will find the F-15E to be right up their alley. This is a strike aircraft and it is supremely capable thanks to ample air to air and air to ground ability! There are a huge array of capabilities right from the first early access release and so dedicated Strike Eagle drivers are going to have a ton of fun tearing up multiplayer servers by fighting their way through enemy air defenses and striking targets with a massive payload.
I’ve just scratched the surface with this jet and I admit to feeling a bit guilty that I haven’t been able to commit more time to going over it – but I wanted to get out what I did have. It does, honestly, take me months and years to learn DCS jets in detail and with the F-15E you have a jet that is very sophisticated and complex with a lot of systems to bring to bear.
This is a very in-depth experience and one that should satisfy quite a few flyers when it comes out. I can’t anticipate what issues we might run into post launch when thousands of people take to the skies in this jet at once (something always comes up) but I have a high degree of confidence right now that this will be a satisfying launch for most people once its in their hands.
Although there’s always the possibility for drama and minor disaster with a DCS module launch, we’ve all seen them, I also feel like RAZBAM have taken everything they have learned over the years with the AV-8B, with the M-2000C, and even with the MiG-19 and worked as hard as possible to make this their best module. The numerous overhauls of the AV-8B and M-2000C have transformed those modules over the years but in the F-15E Strike Eagle I think we have what will eventually become their magnum opus! I’m cautiously optimistic.
When it does release…
We’ve learned that the F-15E is releasing sometime in July. What we get in July will include everything that I’ve seen today plus surely some additional polishing work to get it ready. At the moment, the jet is available for pre-order sale and the 30% off discount does make it a little extra appealing bringing the price down to $55.99 from $79.99 USD. Learn more about it on the Eagle Dynamics store.
Its service ceiling is 60,000 feet (18,288 meters). The fighter-bomber has a combat radius of 790 miles (1,271 kilometers) and a maximum ferry range of 2,765 miles (4,450 kilometers). Though optimized as a fighter-bomber, the F-15E Strike Eagle retains an air-to-air combat capability.What is the difference between the F-15 Eagle and Strike Eagle? ›
United States Air Force (USAF) F-15E Strike Eagles can be generally distinguished from other US Eagle variants by darker aircraft camouflage, conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) mounted along the engine intake ramps (although CFTs can also be mounted on earlier F-15 variants) and a tandem-seat cockpit.Is the F-15 for DCS good? ›
There is a ton of capability with this jet. The F-15E has Link 16 (currently confirming this), it has a much larger HUD than any other DCS jet, it has an incredible radar (which I just have only just scratched the surface with), and it carries all of the weapons that I talked about in the previous section.Is the F-15 easy to fly in DCS? ›
The 15 is easier to fly than the 14 though, so it might feel more agile because of that. It also doesn't have the F-18's g limiter. The Eagle isn't bad at all but it doesn't totally outperform the other DCS aircraft. Actually, from several DACM I've done in DCS, I've found the F-15C maneuvering at low speed very good.How good is F-15 in a dogfight? ›
Some call it the world's greatest fighter based on its proven legacy. It has a kill ratio of 104-0.” In a dogfight where an F-15C might face off against a Russian Sukhoi Su-27 or China's Shenyang J-11, both fourth generation fighters, or even the mighty fifth generation F-22, Eagle pilots are confident they'd triumph.How many F-15 lost in combat? ›
Around 125 US F-15s have been lost over the past 5 decades in mishaps, mostly due to pilot error in reduced visibility situations, ground incidents, or training accidents.Has an F-15 Eagle ever been lost in combat? ›
The F-15 Eagle Has a Flawless Kill-to-Loss Ratio, Its Accident Record, Not So Much. One hundred four confirmed kills and zero losses. This is the defining statistic of the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle and all its variants.What is the best F-15 variant? ›
USAF's F-15 Eagle II Is Its Best Bet
With a maximum attack range of 2,222 kilometers, the Eagle-II is the world's fastest (Mach 2.5) and most technologically advanced warplane, with a payload capacity of 13.6 tons.
In general, the F-15 Eagle performs better in terms of air superiority. On the other hand, the F-35 Lightning II serves more as a battlefield “quarterback.” What is this? In other words, the F-35 is stealthy enough to sneak behind enemy lines yet also lethal enough to pick off enemy fighters.Do real fighter pilots use DCS? ›
Some air forces have used DCS World as a training aid. A professional version called Mission Combat Simulator (MCS) is available for organizational use. The United States Air Force's 355th Training Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB makes use of DCS as an instrument and weapons-system trainer for the A-10C.
I recommend the FC3 Aircraft as an ideal starting point for jets at least. If your planning to fly WWII aircraft fly the free P-51 default aircraft included with DCS. DCS gives you a whole series of tutorials to help you start up your aircraft, taxi then take-off and land.What is the most realistic plane in DCS? ›
What is the most realistic plane in DCS World? The MB-339 is the only jet aircraft capable of performing the famous Lomcovák manoeuvre. The DCS: MB-339 aims to be the most realistic simulation of this aircraft ever made for PC, not only in terms of system functionalities but especially flight performances.Which plane is best for DCS? ›
If you want to go in for guns on air targets but use a jet, the Sabre or MiG-15bis will probably suit you best. If you want to blow up ground targets, the A-10 is the one for you. If you can't decide, go for the coolest looking one and hope for the best.How hard is it to become an F-15 pilot? ›
It is extremely hard to become a fighter pilot.
On average, each year only three candidates become fighter pilots out of over 1000 applicants.
The F-15EX fighter jet is powered by two F110-GE-129 engines, with each generating a thrust of 29,000lb. The aircraft can fly at a speed of Mach 2.5, which makes it the world's fastest fighter jet. It has a range of 1,200nm allowing it to strike deep targets.What is the F-15 perfect combat record? ›
Its impressive kill record. By all substantiated accounts, the F-15's record in combat is a whopping 104 to zero. While some enemy combatants claim F-15 kills, none have ever been able to provide actual evidence.Which is better f15 Strike Eagle or f35? ›
In general, the F-15 Eagle performs better in terms of air superiority. On the other hand, the F-35 Lightning II serves more as a battlefield “quarterback.” What is this? In other words, the F-35 is stealthy enough to sneak behind enemy lines yet also lethal enough to pick off enemy fighters.