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Review: HDS - Functional Aircraft Carrier

Functional Aircraft Carrier

Publisher: Hard Deck Simulations

Review Author:
James Huddison

Suggested Price:



"What's this?" I hear you ask, "A functioning aircraft carrieradd-on for MSFS - why?". Those were precisely my sentiments when Istumbled upon this add-on package in the FlightSim.Com Store. But,being a huge fan of DCS World and its fantastic 'Super Carriers'add-on, I was simply intrigued to see how this package would functionin MSFS; which is essentially an aviation sim at heart.

Installation was pretty straight-forward: you download the add-on,which comes in the form of an .exe file; execute that file and thenthe installer asks you for a location of where to install the mainfrontend of the package (it doesn't matter where this is installed to,so the choice is yours).

The installer then asks you for the location of your 'Community'folder in the main directory of MSFS 2020. If you have installedprevious add-ons, specifically community add-ons, then you will nodoubt already know the location of the MSFS 'Community' folder; forthose of you who don't know where this folder is located, a quickGoogle search will inform you of the default location of this folder,dependant on whether you installed the Microsoft Store version of MSFS2020, or the Steam version. [Editor's note: or you canread our tutorial.]

The location of my Community folder is pretty straight-forward, asI installed MSFS on the parent of one of my M.2 Drives in a custommain folder titled 'FS 2020'.

I fully recommend ticking 'Create a Desktop Icon' duringinstallation, so that you are able to locate and run the main frontendof the add-on with ease. Once installed, run the resulting 'HDScarrier module' program, which will bring up the following window:


There are a couple of important things to note here:

  1. At the top of the frontend window you will see three menuoptions. The first 'Activate/Support' is the final step of theinstallation process and must be completed to activate the add-on.The key for activation can be found on the main product page, when youbuy the package (for the carrier add-on), on the FlightSim.ComStore. The second menu option 'Carrier Locations/How-to', shows youthe ICAO code locations for each of the carrier locations. These arenamed 'CAR1, CAR2', etc.
  2. You will also see a box named 'Connect' accompanied with 'Connectto MSFS once the sim is open'. Once you have started MSFS 2020, youwill need to click this 'connect' box, to ensure the carrier add-on isconnected/operational in MSFS 2020. I also recommend leaving the'keep window on top of FS' box checked (it's easy to hide this windowin the main Simulator, by pushing it to one of your screens'corners).

Once all this is done, you are ready to choose a carrier locationof your preference (I opted for the Gibraltar Carrier - 'CAR4'), bygoing into 'World Map' on the MSFS main screen and then typing in theICAO code of the carrier in the search bar. Being an absolute rebel,I wanted to see how the default Cessna 172 aircraft, which iscurrently my favorite aircraft to fly in MSFS, would perform. Theresults were an eye-opener for sure...


Ever wondered if a Cessna 172 can go from 0 - 70 knots in underthree seconds? Ponder no more my friend, simply throttle up, releasethe parking brake and whoosh! Your aircraft is whipped off thecarrier's deck with the aid of its catapult device. The effect ofbeing catapulted forward at such an insane momentum is an exhilaratingexperience; even more so in a humble Cessna 172.

Once (albeit prematurely) airborne, I completed a circuit aroundthe carrier - from the air the carrier and its accompanyingdestroyers/cruisers, make for quite a spectacular sight.


Completing my circuit, I lined up for a landing approach on thecarrier and aimed for the 'arresting cables', which pretty muchimmediately brought my aircraft to a complete stop.

I found this whole initial experience, from the catapulted assistedtake-off, to the views of the carrier battle formation in the air andthen finally the assisted arresting cable landing, to be more thanenough to warrant a purchase of this add-on, in itself.

But (some of you may be thinking), civilian aircraft, like theCessna 172, are simply not meant to be used with aircraft carriers.Fear not, my next choice of aircraft would be somewhat more suited forthe task in hand - I bought and installed the Eurofighter Typhoon andloaded the aircraft onto a carrier deck.


0-70 knots in under 3 seconds - "pah!" - How about 0-200 knots!

Already holding the record for being the fastest aircraft currentlyin MSFS, being catapulted off the carrier's deck at such anoverwhelming rate of speed is stomach churning.

Completing a circuit is obviously more challenging in the muchfaster Eurofighter, as is landing safely in one piece. I have to addthat it's refreshing to have the option of taking off from and landingfrom carriers in MSFS 2020 (with either jets or aviation aircraft),which as I previously mentioned, is natively an aviation basedsimulator at heart.

And at this point, let's discuss how this carrier add-on packcompares with the more dedicated combat flight simulators add-oncarrier packs, such as in DCS World.


The carriers included in the package look nicely built andwell-constructed, with animated radar towers and the like. They alsocome preloaded with military jet aircraft parked on the deck, whichadds an authentic look and feel to them.

Aside from the pleasing aesthetic looks and workingcatapult/arresting cable mechanics, there are no additional featureswith the carriers in this add-on pack (although there are plannedupdates to further increase its features).

If you want something more in-depth with (for example) operationallanding signal Officer stations and animated ground crew, etc., thenyou will have to switch to DCS and buy and download the DCS WorldSuper Carrier module. This all comes with additional expense ofcourse (the Super Carrier add-on and suitable F-18 jet aircraft costme approximately £100!) and it's here that I feel this MSFScarrier add-on pack really shines - for around £11 or $14.95 US, Ifeel this add-on offers exceptional value for money.

I now love the fact that I can take off, in any aircraft of mychoice, and plan a course/landing on one of the carriers included inthis package. It just simply adds more variety to an alreadyexceptional simulator.

I will leave you with one last tempting thought: have you everdreamed of taking off in an A320 from a carrier? You know what theysay, "dreams can come true!"






James Huddison


Purchase Hard Deck Simulations - Functional Aircraft Carrier for MSFS

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