• Seahawk & Boxer

    Aerosoft USS Boxer And Seahawk

    By Brian Smith (7 August 2006)

    Some of my favorite add-ons for FS2002 came from a company called Lago. At the time they were producing some pretty popular stuff, including Richard Goldstein's Georender series, and who could forget Emma Field. One of the best at customer support on the forums back then was Mathjis Kok. His named appeared on a number of top-sellers, and when there was criticism or praise, he was there to answer the questions. Mathjis now produces products with the team at Aerosoft, and when you get a product he has worked on, you recognize it right away.
    When I bought Aerosoft's USS Boxer and Seahawk package, my intention was to look at the product for its use in my flying with the Virtual U.S. Coast Guard. The package includes a Jayhawk, the USCG version of the H-60. So the first thing I wanted to do was fire up the Jayhawk and see how it compares to the freeware packages out there. Basically I wanted to know if I just threw away money because I could always fly Jordan Moore's freeware helo for a Jayhawk. I was not disappointed; in fact I got a bargain.

    The model of the helicopter is very nicely done. There have been some minor cosmetic issues that have subsequently been repaired (no USCG on the bottom of the Coast Guard helo) thanks in part to the work of Shaun, the constant presence on the Aerosoft customer service forums. Any issue that comes up or question that is asked is answered almost immediately. In customer service terms on forums and by email, to me that means usually less the 24 hours.

    Let's get right to the review. The model of the helicopter is beautifully done. It is rare to see such detail applied to a helicopter as they tend to have more limited appeal. Aerosoft has thrown itself into this project with abandon though. This model is on par with any fixed wing model I have seen. In fact, in many areas it is better than most.

    In the cockpit, the folks at Aerosoft recognized that most of the H-60 fleet is going through an upgrade and getting glass cockpits, so instead of putting in an older style set of "steam" gauges, they put in the two CRTs that appear in all the H-60s coming off the line.

    The gauges are easy to read, and both CRTs have a zoom function. The virtual cockpit uses the CRTs and they run smoothly and are very easy to read. The cockpit also has controls for folding the tail and blades for shipboard operations, the radio controls, GPS and APU/engine controls.

    The autopilot is a very nice feature in this helicopter. I know this is not a new concept in Flight Simulator. People have been adding an autopilot in one form or another to helicopters for a while now, but this is the first time I have seen it done in such a way that even I could understand it. It is not as easy as the default Boeing 737 autopilot, but it comes close. It allows for hovering by a radar altimeter (up to 200 feet), or barometric altimeter (stays at the altitude you set by hand flying the helicopter) . You can track navaids, or a GPS flight plan, or you can fly an FSNav flight plan. It flies the Jayhawk up to 115 kts. It does a really marvelous job.

    Aerosoft has included a number of flights and tutorials to make sure you get the autopilot up and running properly. Be prepared though. In your flying you will encounter wind, and so my experience was that I could get on the helipad a lot more accurately and more rapidly by hand flying. You can probably land the helicopter on the helipad, or on the cutter or Boxer with the autopilot, I just don't have the patience to deal with the delay.

    For me, the beauty of the autopilot is being able to return to my love of helicopter flying, and doing it for long distances without getting carpal tunnel induced pain. The autopilot is a welcome relief for IFR flights. In my flying near Kodiak Alaska, bad weather seems to be more common than sunny days, so when I depart for Anchorage in the Jayhawk, all I have to do is have the autopilot take off and then I fly it to a safe altitude. I engage the autopilot, and have a safe flight through cloudy Alaskan coastline.

    I already mentioned that the virtual cockpit is very well done, but since this is a small cabin, it doesn't take much to add on a virtual cabin, and Aerosoft has done that. The cabin is well done, and thanks to that stable autopilot I am able to slide to the back and operate the winch as well. I can hover over the ship and then open the door and see the ship below.

    I have enjoyed flying this helicopter as a Jayhawk for the Coast Guard so much that I almost forgot to tell you about the rest of the project. The package includes 7 models and 13 different liveries. The models and liveries include several variations for the U.S. Navy, including ASW helos with the MAD antenna and sonar buoy launcher system. There are also versions for the Greek Navy, the Japanese navy, Australian Navy and on and on.

    In addition to all of this helicopter goodness, Aerosoft has included a beautiful model of the Wasp Class Amphibious Assault ship, the LHD-4 USS Boxer.

    The USS Boxer is beautifully rendered in great detail. I have seen most of the ships created for Flight Simulator, including the aircraft carriers and the cutters I have made, and I have never seen one with this much detail. It really is done that well. That polygon count is 750,000. It really is a striking model. The fact that it can be toned down makes it accessible to anyone. It has been placed as a landable scenery in eight locations around the world. You can fly from the ship off the coast of San Francisco, New York, Miami, Gibraltar, Iraq, Norfolks, Hamburg and London.

    In addition to flying from the ships, Aerosoft has included flights for each location that includes a mission. There is additional scenery to help with those missions as well, like the sinking sailboat you see at the beginning of this review, that it part of the mission flown off the Boxer in Miami.

    One of the complaints about the Boxer has been that it can hit the frame rates on an average and below average machine (more than five years old) pretty hard. I found that to be the case if I had all of the sliders maxed out, but when I cleared the decks of miscellaneous equipment and static helos, I hit 25 to 30 FPS consistently. But occasionally I still load it with the full complement of scenery just for the view.

    ADDITIONAL: There seems to have been so much interest in the Coast Guard model, that Aerosoft is close to releasing their Coast Guard upgrade to the Jayhawk; which will include an updated physical model, markings, air file, and Coast Guard Cutter scenery that you can place anywhere you choose using the included program.

    Here are some sneak peeks at the upcoming addition for the U.S. Coast Guard Jayhawk version of this helo. Aerosoft has included the upcoming National Security Cutter (NSC) (it's still in the shipyards). I do a little design myself, and had just finished doing a version of the NSC when the Aerosoft ship hit beta. Let me tell you, there is nothing more humbling than doing design work, and then seeing the quality that professionals can produce. The cutter looks great.

    When I do these reviews, I always try to ask myself if I can recommend the product to someone at the price that is asked. In this case I say yes everytime. This is one of the few packages I have purchased recently where I really got a lot for the money I plunked down. Aerosoft has done an outstanding job. There have been a few glitches, and the Boxer can be a resource hog if placed on full detail, but Aerosoft keeps an open forum and tries to address any issues or complaints immediately.

    I found I had questions more than complaints, and Shaun and Mathjis handled them so quickly, I wondered if they ever leave the forums to browse other sites.

    So if you want a product that is a bargain for your money and you want great customer service, and you like flying helicopters, military or civilian, I highly recommend picking up this package. Hate to wait for the postman to bring you your new toy? Buy it online in downloadable form. It's available at the FlightSim.Com Pilot Shop.

    Brian Smith
    back4smith@yahoo.com

    Learn More Here