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What is the best current Combat Flight Sim for the Jet Age?

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I've read about DCS, but that seems to be the only combat flight sim I can find. Are there others? What are the pros and cons of each? Thanks for any advice.

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It totally depends on what you are looking for.

Here's the quick rundown since I have to get going shortly; hopefully a more detailed follow-up post will come later.

			Campaign	Multiplayer	Aircraft Variety	Era		Systems			Aerodynamics	Moddability

DCS World		linear		incredible	medium (incl helos)	1944-1990s	heavy to hard core	hard core	moddable with scripting
Falcon BMS		dynamic++	great		low*			2000-pres	hard core		hard core	difficult
Strike Fighters 2	dynamic   	N/A		very high (fixed wing)	1965-1983	easy to medium		medium		easy

++ Dynamic Campaign in Falcon is a fully real-time dynamic environment in which you play a small role as a fighter pilot, as compared to most "dynamic camapaigns" which are actually dynamic mission generators.

* Falcon BMS models the F-16C Block 50/52 in very high detail. Other F-16 blocks are available to fly, as are other airframes (A-10A, M2000), but they all use the F-16 avionics and damage model.

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And the follow-up...

Like I said, it totally depends on what you're looking for in a sim. Do you want to fly a lot of different aircraft with simplified systems/aerodynamic modelling, but with enough to keep it interesting? Do you want to fly detailed aircraft and flight models online with others in different aircraft? Or do you want to hop in a jet for a single player experience with a mind-blowing campaign?

If you aren't all that experienced in sims, and/or you don't want to spend the time learning what every knob, switch, and button does in the cockpit, then I recommend the Strike Fighters 2 series. There are 5 SF2 games (SF2, Vietnam, Israel, Europe, and North Atlantic), all of which install to the same folder and are fully compatible with each other (so if you get all of the versions, you have all aircraft and campaigns available from the same menu). It is also very easy to mod, so there is a lot out there. If you have a period aircraft that you like, chances are you can download it if it's not already in the game. I even did mods for the A-6 Intruder and EA-6B Prowler, though you need SF2 Vietnam and/or SF2 North Atlantic to use them. SF2 has a campaign engine with dynamically generated missions, and people have created their own theaters, aircraft, and campaigns. The only thing you don't get is multiplayer.

If you want multiplayer, your choices are Falcon BMS and DCS World. Both of them are considered high fidelity sims, and both of them have a single theater by default (though that will likely change this year with DCS). Multiplayer for both is great. For Falcon BMS, you and your friends can fly F-16s (and other aircraft, but with F-16 avionics and damage model) in the real time dynamic campaign, and some folks even have persistent campaign servers up where you can join in, fly a mission, and log off after making your contribution to the war effort. DCS allows you the ability to fly multiple, highly modeled aircraft in a multiplayer session with the Su-27 flying head to head with the F-15C, or the Su-25T flying SEAD to protect the MiG-21, who is also protecting a Ka-50 from air threats. You may not have a dynamic campaign, but some of the missions are so well designed that you don't really need it (though it would be amazing if it was available).

If DCS sounds good, but you don't want to learn every switch in the cockpit, then look at the Flaming Cliffs 3 aircraft for DCS. FC3 aircraft don't have clickable cockpits, and the avionics are simplified (though still very much on the high end of the scale, and a definite step up from SF2). As long as you can remember key commands or program them to HOTAS, you can fly FC3 aircraft without having to click 5 things in the cockpit whenever you want to do something. FC3 aircraft include the Su-27, F-15C, A-10A, Su-25 (all of which are available separately or as part of Flaming Cliffs 3), MiG-29, and Su-33 (both of which are available in FC3). The Su-25T is included for free with DCS World, so you can give it a try without paying a cent.

In short, SF2 gives you the most aircraft, theaters, campaigns, and 3rd party support, but with simplified systems and no mulitplayer. DCS World gives you a variety of highly modeled aircaft from different eras, as well as the ability to fly them all in multiplayer, but no dynamic campaign. Falcon BMS gives you the best campaign engine ever written, but with a single high fidelity aircraft.

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