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The T-38 Talon is a twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer used in a variety of roles because of its design, economy of operations, ease of maintenance, high performance and safety record. The US Air Education and Training Command (AETC) is the primary user of the T-38 for joint specialised undergraduate pilot training. The AETC began receiving T-38C models in 2001 as part of the Avionics Upgrade Program. T-38C models also underwent a propulsion modernisation program which replaced major engine components to enhance reliability and maintainability, and an engine inlet/injector modification to increase available take-off thrust. These upgrades and modifications should extend the service life of T-38s to 2020. In addition to its role as a supersonic trainer, the T-38 is used as a spaceflight readiness trainer for NASA astronauts and as a research support aircraft (also known as a chase aircraft, a plane used to escort planes during test flights or other research missions) at Edwards Air Force Base.
MilViz are a company synonymous with modelling military flight sim aircraft. Their motto is ‘quality or why bother’ and this sets them apart from many other developers who often don’t display the accuracy of flight, and the quality of textures which MilViz can achieve. The T-38C – Advanced Series is more than just a redux of their hugely popular T-38-A Advanced series, the T-38C takes that original model and brings it bang up to date to take advantage of new technologies available in Prepar3D V4.4 and above. It also has a custom physics and flight dynamics engine and flight control system which are true to the real aircraft. Add failure and damage modelling, and up to date glass avionics, and you have control of a very exciting and challenging aircraft to fly. The T-38C is also TacPack compatible, this requires the TacPack Combat System from VRS to work.
Exterior. Here I am outside my hangar walking around this classic Northrop T-38C Talon in cold and dark configuration. As mentioned above, via a SHIFT+2 interface, I can lose the pilots, add the pilot’s ladder, chocks, huffer or puffer (air starters), and travel fuel pod. There is a ladder for the co-pilot as well, but this is activated when opening the rear canopy from inside the rear cockpit. The first thing I notice is how the sleek the lines of this aircraft are, it has curves, not angles like today’s stealth bombers and fighters. The relatively small span wings are swept back as is the empennage, from above you can see the fuselage has an area-rule shape (a curve inwards to smooth the airflow in trans-sonic flight), from the side, the nose is very long and accentuated by pitot-static boom which could almost be mistaken for a refuelling probe. From the lower surface of the fuselage centre section, devoid of hydraulic pressure, hang two speed brakes inboard of the wings, they look like they can induce some serious drag. Milviz have modelled the fuselage almost perfectly in my view, with a vast array of detailed areas such as the landing gear and after burners, even with the curvy cooling ducts and the slim waistline, she looks still looks aggressive and purposeful.Included with the model are 10 liveries from sea and land camo’s, to NASA and USAF Airforce squadrons. All the liveries have detailed riveting and signwriting on the fuselage which are super clear, all the textures have been updated to take advantage of PBR texturing, and the tailpipes have that overheated metal look so commonly seen around the afterburners.
Interior. Moving inside the cockpit, the first thing I notice is how the new MFD, Up Front Control Panel (UFCP), HUD and HOTAS flight system dominate the office. Gone are the steam gauges of old, the MFD is your main source of info for attitude (EADI), flight plans, navigation, weapons, and engine management, it will even relay an image of the HUD, although not that practical, it looks cool. The layout of the other gauges and controls are not too cluttered, ideal for a training aircraft where the main controls and gauges need to be easiest to find. Most of the switches are animated but other items such as the map box are not. One thing I miss are the tool tips and values of the switch / gauge shown in the description. The rear cockpit has many of the same essential instruments and controls as the front and are every bit a detailed too. In cold and dark setup, the blank screens have reflections which disappear when switched, I am sure that the reflections were overlooked on these screens as in the real world these reflections would remain, but overall the quality of the textures are superb with all the expected amount of wear and tear, the stick looks particularly good A special mention has to be made for the included RealLight plugin, the internal lighting is just awesome with an infinitely variable level of illumination from the instrument backlighting or flood or console lighting, this takes the overall ambiance to another level.
To get the full experience you should set the realism to full in the sim controls and set a couple of timed system failures within the ‘Add-Ons’ menu, such as bird strike and realistic landing gear etc., to start, I opted for the ‘Instructor Mode’ which provides tips and warnings at any phase of the flight, from engine start-up to shut down. In this mode, you essentially have an instructor in the rear seat, providing flying hints and warnings, noting damage or failures, or listing operational limitations (and when they are exceeded).
Ground handling is easy and precise. In order to make those short radius turns at slow speed, you need to activate the nose wheel steering, this will most likely be a spare switch on your joystick and should be assigned via MVAMS before flight. The view from the cockpit is excellent, there's virtually nothing to interfere with your horizon.
Not unexpectedly, this aircraft is a hot rod, ready for departure, hard on the brakes, throttles at mil power, release, and set to max power, pull back about 145kts accelerate and head for the clouds at about 10-15 degree pitch until FL100, that takes all of 180 seconds! The Talon easily maintains its 300kt restriction up to this level and faster when higher. The HUD really is your best friend the illuminated display alternates between green and white depending whether it’s blue sky or cloud on your nose. So wanting to test its supersonic capabilities, I climb to FL300 and point the nose gradually at Earth, I clocked Mach 1.1 when pulling out at FL30 but she was very unstable with an incredible yaw, I maintained 1.1 for a brief while until BINGO appeared in the HUD, time to refuel. I tried the manoeuvre again at FL400, this time I wasn’t so lucky, being impatient I managed two engine compressor stalls and flameouts! To be honest I didn’t know what to do, I was fixated on the RPM gauges showing just 9 each, so I headed for the ground at a slow pace and dropped the gear ready. To my amazement, the engines fired up again when hitting the starters, it was quite a religious experience and I promised not to do it again!
The Talon doesn’t have much in the way of flight planning, and there is no auto pilot. I set up and stored a plan in MVAMS using ICAO references but when programming via the UFCP I only found inputting coordinates worked, however, I need another look. One thing that did work a treat was the nearest airport option which showed me the way home via the HSI on the MFD, that’s a godsend when you are 100 miles out at sea in fog, one thing to bear in mind though, this only works in US airspace. Pre-flight training is a must, as part of the superb 101-page user manual there is a section labelled ‘How do I…’. These instructions will help you starting the engines whilst sections like ‘Normal Procedures’ will help you keep the aircraft with its envelope, otherwise it will bite back!
Initially, I found the aircraft to be straight forward to fly, admittedly I was flying her with kid gloves reticent to make any sudden changes of altitude or direction for fear of a failure, but once I had reached FL300 with no problems, I found the Talon to be very nimble and responsive, in very step turns the aircraft would rumble and shake but usually just backing off the turn and/or throttle brought her back. Follow the procedures and you are in for an amazing experience.
Sounds. The external sounds are very good, the engine spool up and take-off thrust sounds are superb and vary as you move around the aircraft. The cockpit sounds are just as good but subtle, you may think the toggle switch clicks are silent, but they are not, they are partially cloaked by the engine noide, I only found a couple of switches silenced. The commands given by Betty are clear and some of them also appear in the HUD too. On opening the canopy, a good representation of the opening lever sounds, and a solid ‘clump’ when closing. With the canopy open, the sound coming from the rear jets is very believable.
Documentation. As always with MilViz, a comprehensive user manual is supplied in PDF format. 101 pages of interesting background information of the aircraft and installation and configuration hints, along with normal procedure and ‘how to' guides. There are a few mistakes in the manual which I have had to refer back to MilViz via their forums to get the definitive answer. The latest manual has corrected come mistakes, but not all, like the tailhook command advised for nose wheel steering for example.
Configuration. The Milviz Addon Management System (MVAMS) takes care of the default set up for the aircraft. You can opt to have the aircraft load ready to take off, or in cold and dark configuration. Other options such as avionics and pitch and roll trim speed can also be set. On the Data Transfer System page, you can also store flight plan data which can be recalled in the aircraft later. There is also a page to map your controls, one problem I had was the user manual said use the tailhook simulator command for the nose wheel steering, which is an essential control, in fact there is a setting in the HOTAS controls section of MVAMS. When the aircraft is loaded into P3D, there are a couple of menu items available, under the ‘Vehicle’ menu item I can select an ACM panel, here, through checkbox options, I can choose to display or hide the pilots, the two types of air starting methods (Huffer or Puffer), chocks, ladder, and the travel pod. The fuel quantity can also be adjusted. The ‘Add-ons’ Menu will reveal two menu options related to the T-38C: the ‘T-38C ADV Configuration Menu’ will display the screen related to enabling and adjusting the various failure modes available, while the ‘Milviz T-38C’ menu contains options both critical for starting the Talon, as well as for adjusting control settings.
Availability and Installation. The product is available direct from MilViz and other main resellers such as Aerosoft and Just Flight. Due to its complexity the aircraft comes within the top band for pricing at around USD$79.99. The product is delivered via download and will need around 2GB of hard drive space. During installation the installer will install another installer from TFDi Design which installs their RealLight addon. Note, versions earlier than V1.190172 may have a problem with the RealLight textures when the sim loads so ensure you have the latest version. (See MVAMS above)
A good solid all round package. The flying experience with the add-on failures make it an exciting and unpredictable aircraft. The flight engine is believable to a non military jet pilot like myself, and a challenge to tame under extreme manoevers. Milviz are at the top of their game when it comes to modelling and graphics, and the Talon T-38C is no exception.
|Intel i9, 7900X, 10 Core, 4.3GHz;|
|Asus Prime X299 Deluxe;|
|32GB, 3200MHz, DDR42GB, DDR4;|
|MSI NVidia GTX1080Ti Gaming X, 11GB;|
|Windows 7, (64bit); and|
|Lockheed Martin Prepar3D v188.8.131.52293|