Hawk T.1A Jet Simulation for DCS

The Hawk T.1A is most likely best known by a majority of people as the aircraft that the Red Arrow display team use in order to perform their impressive displays of aerial acrobatics or "aerobatics" as it's known. Though this is the reason that most civilians will know about this aircraft, the Hawk T.1A has a much richer history than its modern use as a fast-jet advanced pilot aircraft for the RAF 208 Reserve Squadron would immediately indicate.

After all, history fanatics will know of the Hawk T.1A's use dates back to 1976 when it was first introduced into the RAF. A perfect single-engine aircraft to act as a light interceptor, the BAE Systems (baesystems.com) Hawk is an extremely versatile and agile aircraft, which explains why it is the plane chosen by the RAF to assume the role of the Red Arrows. It isn't just the United Kingdom that owns and operates the Hawk variants (T1/T.1A) either: a number of other operators also have this model in service including the air forces of Malaysia, Zimbabwe, India, Indonesia, and Finland.

Flight Simulator fans out there are lucky enough to now be able to experience the Hawk T.1A in all its simulator glory in the module of the same name that runs in conjunction with DCS World. I have fully tested the Hawk T.1A jet and reviewed it for jetgames.org which focuses heavily on fighter jet simulators. Both DCS and their aircraft modules focus on simulating aerial combat and dogfight simulations with a large variety of planes.

Known for its high-fidelity flight simulations designed by real world and experienced pilots, digitalcombatsimulator.com DCS World offers the Hawk, a module that has a fantastic 3D cockpit that's also interactive, as well as allowing you to experience the various armaments that the Hawk T.1A has to offer including Sidewinder missiles and a powerful cannon perfect for dogfighting. Such is the accuracy of the model that when you're done with it you could probably try out for the real Red Arrows, let alone the virtual ones at virtualredarrows.com!

The Hawk T.1A Module

After the installation of the Hawk T.1A module it is readily accessible through the core DCS World software. Browsing the menu in the usual fashion as you would any other module, you'll find that along with the Hawk T.1A comes a modest quantity of content (in addition to just the aircraft itself). You'll be able to enter into "Instant Action" missions which range from a cold start to various other kinds of missions such as intercepting other aircraft.

raf hemswell hawk internal shot

Unfortunately, this module is rather light on content in most other respects. It lacks any true missions that give the other modules their longevity (Flaming Cliffs 3, for example, has a wide array of aircraft and accompanying missions/scenarios), so the only option is

Perhaps the best part about the Hawk T.1A content is simply entering into free flight where you can test the aircraft to your heart's content. There are also two training missions for those that are unfamiliar with the aircraft or perhaps aren't yet adjusted to the sheer level of detail involved in DCS World's flight simulations.

The Flight Model

The Hawk T.1A runs on a Standard Flight Model as the module currently stands (remember the module is effectively still in Beta testing). This means that although the physical aircraft model itself and the physics that dictate its behaviour in all of the possible scenarios it will go through are extremely accurate and based on real-life test data, the physics, some of the hardware, and the general representation of reality isn't quite as detailed or accurate as DCS World's Advanced/Professional flight model aircraft.

 Flight simulator fans shouldn't worry however since the Hawk behaves as it should: it is agile, fast, and substantially more realistic than non-simulator titles such as Ace Combat or Altitude. This doesn't mean the Hawk T.1A Flight Model is without its foibles however.

raf hemswell hawk external shot

Problems with the flight model are most evident in the first annoyance, which is the notable inability to trim aircraft to reach a stable heading in the air. . If you need a demonstration of this, then simply attempt to trim the aircraft and adjust the stick in order to reach an equilibrium at a level altitude. You will notice that this is extremely difficult to do and are more likely to (at best) achieve a level course with constant bobbing of the nose of the aircraft.

Additionally, there are a number of other niggles such as the landing procedure definitely being a little too simple when you compare it with the relatively complex landing dictated by the ultra-realistic physics of the Su-27, which runs a Professional Flight Model as opposed to the Hawk's Standard one. This is really down to the Standard Flight Model as well as the relatively unfinished nature of this module, which is still in its BETA phase and will be for the foreseeable future. Thankfully, VEAO Simulations is developing an External Flight Model which will likely bring better textures and superior physics to the Hawk.

3D Cockpit

Though you cannot possibly describe any of DCS World's modules as being simplistic or lacking in detail in any way, it can be said that some modules are more complex than others, which usually comes down to a number of factors, the main ones being the flight model of the plane and the complexity of the plane itself. As is mentioned previously the current version of the Hawk flies a Standard Flight Model, but the ace up its sleeve is its interactive cockpit that is rendered in wonderful 3D.

Being interactive means that instead of having to rely solely on keyboard shortcuts/commands to operate the hardware in front of you, it is instead made so that you must use the mouse (as a virtual extension of your hand, essentially) in order to operate the hardware you see around you. This means flicking the relevant switches, turning the relevant knobs, checking the relevant dials, and doing almost all the things that an actual Hawk T.1A pilot would do when flying the aircraft.

raf hemswell hawk cockpit view

The interactive cockpit definitely gives the T.1A the edge over other aircraft in the DCS World collection that don't have this feature. Above all it provides a heightened sense of authenticity for those that like their flight simulators to be as realistic as possible. It also makes flying the plane much more difficult for beginners because it takes a certain level of knowledge in order to interact with the cockpit, flicking various switches and preparing the aircraft for takeoff.  Perhaps this makes the module unappealing for beginners, but for those with moderate to advanced skill, this is a feature that is really quite pleasing.

Graphics, Textures, and Sounds

Firstly, this module obvious has an extremely accurate model, physically speaking (if a little plain in appearance). It also has a nicely detailed cockpit with a majority of the real-life hardware being represented in an interactive, 3D fashion. The cockpit itself could definitely do with some more detailed textures and there should also be more of a variety of external texture mods made readily available so that people can enjoy the Hawk as a Red Arrow without needing to own Flaming Cliffs 2 to do so. This is particularly relevant now considering the new Red Arrow design that is being rolled out on the Red Arrow Hawks currently.

 The ability to simply switch between Hawk textures through the menus within the game would be most beneficial to many fans of DCS World that also admire the Red Arrows, or simply don't like the very plain and unappealing look of the plain in its original state.

raf hemswell hawk red arrow

In terms of sound, there's not too much to complain about here, with the sounds being as accurate as you'd want them in a flight simulation. You may notice a few oddities here and there due to the BETA nature of the module. VEAO systems need to sort out the lack of the characteristic sidewinder sound when firing the missile, for example.

The Future of the DCS World Hawk T.1A

When entering into flight for the first time in the Hawk T.1A module, you must remember that it is still a working BETA. VEAO Systems have been up front about this, making it very clear this clear whilst also promising that updates are on their way such as the development of an External Flight Model and additional textures along the way (such as much-needed cockpit texture updates). In light of this, the Hawk T.1A module as it stands must be treated as a BETA and not a finished product.

Given the above considerations, the Hawk T.1A is, generally speaking, at least of the standard you'd expect from Eagle Dynamics' DCS World. The Standard Flight Model could definitely benefit from tweaks to make landings more realistic, trimming to equilibrium possible, and other currently unusable hardware functional. In addition, the Hawk T.1A module is simply desperate for content such as dedicated missions, as well as a larger quantity of interactive training modules to get beginners used to the cockpit. Its flaws aside, this is still the best and most detailed/accurate model of the Hawk T.1A you're ever likely to experience, making this module as much of a triumph as a BETA could possibly be.