Aerosoft F-14 X – review (6*) – summary

Aerosoft’s F-14 has everything I expect in a military aircraft for FSX. It’s graphics, model and realism make it a must-have for every warbird enthusiast.

F-14 Aerosoft

Aerosoft’s F-14X

Pros and cons

What I like in Aerosoft’s F-14X?

  • flight model
  • simulated failures
  • it’s looks – model and textures
  • systems
  • combat scenarios
  • USS Kitty Hawk add-on aircraft carrier
  • TacPack weapons
  • overall realism

What I do not like?

  • manual that looks like it was written in haste
  • limited Air-to-Ground capabilities

What can be improved

  • advanced combat systems (countermesures – ECM, flares, chaffs, advanced radar modes)
  • few texture glitches
  • F-14B

F-14X review – parts 1-3:

Look at the size of this stabilisers

It’s not a contrail. It’s an SA-2 missile that I evaded (SA-2 is part of TacPack add-on)

Moving mud – bombs under fuselage

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Grumman F-14 Tomcat

 

Few planes had a PR as good as Grumman’s F-14 Tomcat. Criticized as too heavy, too expensive and not agile enough it silenced it’s critics when a pair of Tomcats was attacked by Libyan Su-22s in what whas later called Gulf of Sidra incident. U.S. naval planes returned fire and shot down both Fitters (NATO code of Su-22) with no losses on their side. “Turkey” – F-14 unfriendly nickname was gone and never came back.

Tomcat’s popularity grown even more in 1986 when Top Gun movie was released. It’s hard to tell who played the main role – was it Tom Cruise or his plane. The Navy spent it’s money well – the number of recruits increased fivefold.

Even the popularity could not change the fact that F-14 was extremely expensive to make, sustain and operate. With the end of the cold war it’s upgrade program was struggling. Only a small number of F-14s got the new GE engines and better electronic equipment. The all new F-14D (Super Tomcat) was build in an even smaller number – 37 new planes were manufactured and 18 F-14As were modified. As the threat of Russian long range bombers disappeared F-14 lost it’s main role of a carrier group protector armed with the mighty AIM-54 missiles. As a multi-role fighter it was just to heavy to compete with the smaller and more versatile F-18. F-14 career in the U.S. Navy ended in 2006 when the last planes were retired from U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt.

The only flying Tomcats can be seen during air shows in Iran. Of the original 79 planes delivered before the revolution several still fly despite the embargo imposed on Iran to prevent it from getting spare parts. Oddly – this embargo prevents U.S. based Tomcats from flying – because of fear that parts for them could be used in Iran. Sadly at this moment there are no F-14 in flying condition in U.S.

 

Bombcat

Navigating during a low level patrol sortie

Aerosoft’s F-14X

Aerosoft made two variants of F-14 – A and B boasting different engines and slightly different avionics. Additionally three versions of the A model were made – F-14A 90 / 100 / 110 – the most noticeable difference is in the air-to-ground armament available for these variants.

I tested the F-14X from Aerosoft’s store where it costs 34,99 Euro (including 19% tax – tax may be different in you location if you live in EU) or 29,40 Euro (if you live outside EU). I use download version but there is a boxed product available.

Szczecin (EPSC) – temporary base of this Iranian F-14

Imperial era F-14 of Iran (exiled like the Shah?)

Installation

A standard Aerosoft’s installer requires the email and the product key to work. Apart from that it’s fully automatic.

 

A folder for F-14A is created in FSX/Aerosoft folder. There you will find documents, configuration files for AI Carriers, aircraft carrier scenery and additional files for ship movements.

Close up

Documents

It’s a sad story where someone makes a great first impression and then ruins it.

The good first impression is made by the general overview of the documents. There are seven volumes:

  • Vol 1 – In FSX_EN
  • Vol 2 – Checklists
  • Vol 3 – Cockpit & Controls
  • Vol 4 – Flight Systems
  • Vol 5 – Avionics
  • Vol 6 – Weapons
  • Vol 7 – Carrier Operations

All documents visually are on par with other Aerosoft’s manuals and could be shown as the example of how a good manual should be published. Texts are informative, tables of contents – helpful and everything that I looked for could be found in a matter of seconds… or never.

That is the problem – this seven volumes are 158 pages long in total. Take back the pictures, tables of contents, title pages… there is not much left to describe such a complicated aircraft. What helps is the quality of information provided (for the most part). If something was described – it’s described in detail. They chose some of the most important topics. But it’s clearly not enough.

There are problems that you will never solve with this manual. Like the ground attack modes – there is a SINGLE sentence about ground attack in the “Weapons” volume – “Iron bombs can be dropped using CCIP delivery mode and will blast ground targets”. That is all. It’s not even a manual – it’s just a description of TacPack compatibility. If I haven’t been flying military planes for years I would have no idea what CCIP mode is. Such a thing should be described. As it should be stated that LANTIRN pod is just a 3d model without any effect on bombs and that SMART bombs work just like the dumb iron bombs…

There are also confusing descriptions. I read the radar manual several times and I still have no idea how (in authors imagination) the radar works. Again – I have a good background and it’s not a problem for me. But if you just started with military aircraft – it will be impossible to learn everything you need from this document.

The radar section and some other parts of this manual make the impression that the person who wrote the manual was not in communication with the person who coded the systems.

I may be bad mouthing the manual somehow – compared with the average manual for a payware plane – it is not worse. It’s just mediocre. I decided to rate this product with 6-stars – that is why I describe the problems in details – so that you are informed and do not make your decision based solely on my rating.

What helps is that the real F-14 manuals and flight profiles are available at avialogs.

Look at this smoke – it is a serious performance hit in outside view (the problem occurs when stationary on the ground)

Requirements! (read it!)

F-14X will work in a standard FSX / SP2. If you want to fly from aircraft carriers you need FSX Acceleration or FSX Steam Edition. For weapons to work you need a separate pay-ware add-on – TacPack. I review this aircraft using FSX Acceleration with TacPack installed.

Ingress

Bomben los

Enemy Dromaders are the greatest threat to the world peace – let’s deal with them!

Almost – but I home this light and sound show will convince it to stay on the ground

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Cockpit (5*****)

This is where my admiration begins. F-14X is flown from the Virtual Cockpit which features both seats – pilot’s and RIO’s (RIO – Radar Intercept Officer).

In my opinion the cockpit of such a plane should not look too old or too worn. When I look at some military planes available for FSX I wonder if their developers gone in direction that some model makers choose – to make something as worn as possible – covered with scratches, flaking paint and dirt. In my opinion a military plane should not look like that. It should not have a “plastic” look either – it’s not a toy and probably it did not come straight from the factory. Damage, signs of wear and even some dust should be visible in the right amounts and in the right places. That is exactly what Aerosoft achieved here. Paint is worn mostly on the edges – where it could be easily damaged. Scratches cover places that could be scratched in the real world – usually flat and unprotected surfaces. It is not overdone in any place – I do not think that even the strictest officer would be dissatisfied with the state of this plane and still – it does look like it was used. There is nothing artificial here.

For the sake of precision I need to mention several flaws. Emergency generator switch is places in the middle of a flat black texture. TCS TRIM knob in RIO’s cockpit lacks the markings – there is a black hole instead. Fortunately this are minor details in places where I rarely look. The only flaw that I actually do not like is the XMTR and MSL channel window in RIO’s cockpit. It looks like someone forgot to model it and then places a texture. A simple model of the dial does not help much – it still looks like a half-measure.

Pilot’s view

RIOs cockpit

As I said – this is the only flaw that I really care for. Apart from this – everything has a perfect depth. What should be protruding – is. What should be concave – is. The 3d model of this cockpit is one of the best features of the plane.

What I also like in the cockpit is how handy it is. It’s important for me to be able to press the buttons, rotate knobs and push the switches fast when I am flying with supersonic speed over the ocean. Here I do not have to guess where a switch should be clicked – it’s intuitive – all the click spots are places well.

 

I also like the 2d panel. It serves it’s purpose and make operating this two-seat plane much easier for a single FSX pilot. The most important features of the 2d panel are wing controls and the most important buttons and knobs from both cockpits. With this panel I can operate radar, HUD and weapons without taking my eyes from the target.

Having flown more than 100 flights I think that there should be more 2d panels for this plane. For example – autopilot switches on the left panel are uncomfortable to reach if someone does not have a TrackIr. It would be nice to be able to show RIO’s upper screen in a 2d panel while sitting in the front seat.

But that are my ideas about what would be a good addition. The lack of these panels does not change my very good opinion about this cockpit.

Who can read the digits on the nose?

Burn baby burn (no – I am not on fire)

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Outside (6******)

I simply like how this plane looks. It is (first and foremost) well designed. What I mean is that the model is correct and the animations are created for the moving parts.

There are details that developers tend to forget – some small features that are optional and are required only in a specific configuration. They were not forgotten here. For example the Phoenix missile mounts under the fuselage. They looks just like in a real F-14. There are the animated ramps in engine inlets – I showed them in the second part of this review. You can actually learn how they work by looking at them in flight.

There are also custom effects. If I want to dump fuel I can use dump-and-burn procedure – lighting the fuel with afterburner. Counter-intuitively – it’s the safest way to dump fuel because it eliminates the risk of another aircraft flying into the air-fuel mist. I have no idea if an F-14 ever did this on an air show but dump-and-burn was a signature move of Australian F-111s.

Apart from that the aircraft produces a lot of smoke, burns when hit with a missile (I am not sure if this is Aerosoft’s effect or TacPack’s). Afterburner flame effect is also very nice (actually it’s the best I have seen in FSX).

If you look form the outside the pilot and RIO’s models are animated. I think that they could move more vigorously – it’s a fighter nevertheless and they should use this large window that covers them.

Lights – normal. No mistakes. Version 1.10 introduced a 3d landing light (by A2A) – it was a good move.

Textures – flat / dull?
It’s not my opinion – I actually like this shades but Carsten – a fellow reviewer writing for simreviews.com – pointed to me that the textures of this plane are dull. I would personally use the word flat. We had a short but passionate discussion about the real colors of planes in eighties and neither convinced the other.

I think you should be informed that the colors may not be as bright and saturated as in the real planes from that time. It’s my assumption that the F-14 was painted in this add-on as a plane that was used in a military unit and it may be weathered and a little dirty – like many planes I saw (including F-14s in museums). But I admit that it can be a mistake and these planes might have been brighter in real world 30 years ago.

 

Kitty Hawk

Different time, different place

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Kitty Hawk and KA-6 (5*****)

F-14X add-on features an Aircraft Carrier – the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk which sails with it’s battle group in 11 places around the world. That is nice – it gives me a place to land on an aircraft carrier. Not that I need one – I have a freeware Nimitz and a payware Enterprise. But I think it is a nice touch to add a carrier to a naval plane. For many it will be the first and maybe the only carrier they have. To start on the Kitty Hawk you need to open a saved flight. It also works with AI Carriers freeware add-on.

I have a mixed feelings about this carrier. It does not look like the payware Enterprise but it is free. Compared to the Nimitz… the latter will be my choice more often but I can not criticize Kitty Hawk too much – it’s a additional tool not the main product.

KA-6 is a familiar (to me) KA-6 by RAZBAM. It was included in this add-on and can be called through add-ons menu in FSX whenever I need to refuel the F-14. It looks nice and the add-on module for tanker is a great idea. Even pilots who do not have the TacPack will be able to fly with tanker aircraft.

Bear – Tupolev Tu-95

Tactical scenarios (6)

That is something that I have never seen in FSX before. F-14X includes FSX module that created dynamic tactical scenarios involving AI aircraft. After I load a plane on the carrier I can go to Add-ons menu, choose F-14 and then one of the scenarios involving planes that I will have to intercept or escort. After a few flights I am even more delighted when I discover that Su-27 pilot behaves completely different then the Tu-95 crew. Different tactics will be necessary to scare him of (if I want to just scare him of instead of shooting him down).

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Impressions (6)

Take a look at three parts of this review that I published earlier:

Sounds (6)

I rarely notice sounds in FSX planes and a situation where I think that sound influences my opinion of the plane is even rarer. It does in the F-14. The plane “talks”. From the startup when the compressed air can be heard when it moves the turbine the sound is a valuable source of information about that is going on. The plane will voice it’s objection to hard maneuvers (crackles of fuselage under heavy Gs). It has very convincing sounds for gear, flaps and touchdown, etc.

There are also sounds associated with air combat. Sidewinder tracking buzz and a higher tone when the seeker found a target. Vulcan gun rattle is also similar to how this gun sounds. The twitter of missile warning is almost unbearable (still better then the sound of exploding SA-2)

Performance (5-)

It was a frame rate friendly plane even on my old setup (i5@4.0GHz / 8 GB RAM / GTX 550Ti / Win 8.1 / DX10 Fixer) and I think it performs better than other hi-end add-on planes.

The only effect that causes a performance problems is the engine smoke in outside view. If the plane is parked at the stand and there are clouds of smoke around – the performance hit is serious.

I also observed and increased load when I sat in RIO’s seat and tracked multiple targets in a congested airspace.

Shortcomings

Apart from what I mentioned there is a problem in how this aircraft works with FS Recorder software. You will find that it sometimes burns (actually it’s a dump-and-burn effect) and it’s wings do not fold properly.

I have an impression that late variants were made in a hurry – hence lack of air-to-ground modes and LANTIRN support. For me it is not a serious problem but you should know this when buying F-14X.

 

Evading missiles

CCIP mode in action

Eject! Eject!

Summary – 6******

It is the best plane that I installed in 2014. Aerosoft’s F-14 boasts great 3d model and graphics, extraordinary systems and the realism seen only in the best add-ons for Flight Simulator X. It is a must-have for every warbird enthusiast. It took a well deserved place on my favorite planes list.

I described my impressions and I tried to give you the best information about this plane I could. I pointed to several flaws. It was not meant to discourage you, but to show you where I fount them – mostly in features or systems that military planes in FSX do not have at all. This are the features that I associate with a dedicated military simulators like a Falcon BMS or DCS.

What if you are just interested in air combat? That is also a plane for you. It will make you learn. It will be a challenge. And it will give you a lot of fun when you master it.

 

High speed turn

Quality to price ratio – great

If you are buying F-14 you need to consider two products – F-14X and TacPack. The first costs 35 Euro. The second – 40 Euro – but the TacPack serves also as a weapons add-on for excellent freeware Dino Catteneo planes, IRIS’ A-10, VRS’ F-18 and Metal2Mesh’s Mirage and others. There will be more TacPack compatible planes in the future.

After a serious consideration I rated it based on the F-14X price only. It’s a simple – 35 Euro for a high-end aircraft makes a great deal – even without the weapons support.

If you consider F-14X + TacPack it’s 75 Euro and you get a great plane and weapons support for many other aircraft. It’s not cheap, but it’s not expensive either.

 

If you are interested in F-14 and never thought seriously about firing weapons – go for F-14X and leave the TacPack for the future.

Product page – Aerosoft F-14X 

Add-ons on my screens:

The F-14X was provided for review by Aerosoft.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Aerosoft F-14 X
Author Rating
5

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