• Vought A-7 Corsair II Volume II By RAZBAM

    Vought A-7 Corsair II Volume II By RAZBAM

    By Scott Woodford (4 April 2011)

    The Vought A-7 Corsair II or, more accurately, the Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 Corsair II, entered service during the Vietnam War as a carrier-based attack aircraft replacing the A-4 Skyhawk. The Corsair II (named after Vought's famous F-4U Corsair which fought extensively throughout the Pacific theatre in WWII) was based on the F-8 Crusader design due to limitations placed on the contact which required existing designs to be used to minimise the cost of manufacturing a new aircraft. The A-7 was also the first combat aircraft ever to use a Heads Up Display (HUD) which projected vital flight and target information directly in front of the pilot's eyes meaning he did not have to look down/away from what was happening outside his cockpit at important times, such as engaging an enemy target.

    The first A-7 flew in late 1965, with the first US Navy squadron becoming operational and being deployed to Vietnam in 1967.

    In Volume II of their A-7 Corsair II release (Volume I gave us the A-7D, E & H variants), RAZBAM have recreated the A-7 in both A and B variants (the B model was upgraded with a more powerful engine and improved terrain following RADAR). Included in the package is also a P variant, which were US Navy A model aircraft that were upgraded to A-7E standard with improved engines and avionics and then exported to Portugal (hence the "P" designation).

    Product Purchase Analysis via FlightSim Pilot Shop>>

    Download from Pilot Shop

    Yes

    Cost (USD)

    $35

    File Size

    286 MB

    Auto-Installer Application

    Yes

    Protected by Licence Key

    No

    Operating Manual

    Yes

    Checklist/Reference Material

    No

    Uninstall Application

    No

    Purchase and installation from the Pilot Shop are very easy. The installation program installs all files in to the relevant folders within FSX, and the aircraft is ready to fly without further effort required from the user. The installer creates an additional RAZBAM folder in the root directory for FSX in which is contained the aircraft paint kit, and Operating Manuals for both the A/B variants, and the P variant.

    Because no uninstall program is included, removing the product (if desired) requires manually deleting the aircraft via the Windows Control Panel. Once installed, virtual pilots will find seven different aircraft liveries in their hangar, including three versions each of the A and B models, and one model of the A-7P airframe.

    Performance

    A comparison of real-world performance data and RAZBAM aircraft data is included below.

    REAL AIRCRAFT DATA
    From Wikipedia & http://www.aero-web.org/specs/vought/a-7a.htm>>

    VIRTUAL AIRCRAFT DATA
    From Testing in FSX

    Empty weight

    6,819 kg

    Empty weight

    5,307 kg

    Maximum take-off weight

    17,233 kg

    Maximum take-off weight

    17,236 kg

    Maximum speed (at sea level)

    600 knots (1,123 km/h)

    Maximum speed

    645 knots

    Ceiling

    42,000 ft

    Ceiling

    38,000 ft

    Climb rate

    15,000 fpm

    Climb rate

    6,000+ fpm

    Pilots expecting fighter-like performance whilst flying at "Mach 2 with your hair on fire" would be well advised to stay away from the Corsair II. This aircraft was designed as a sub-sonic weapons delivery platform. Although fitted with the same engines as the F111 Aardvark and F14 Tomcat, the A-7 was not equipped with afterburners and so lacks that additional thrust to break the sound barrier. But this is where the A-7 comes in to its own. The A-7 was deliberately designed to fly at relatively slow speeds in order to dramatically increase its operational range without reducing its ability to carry large loads of ordnance to a target.

    Reading the operating manual, pilots are reminded several times that RAZBAM have tried to model this aircraft as close to the real thing as possible. They claim that it handles true to the original aircraft, and also advise that if mistreated, the engine will fail. This was reinforced during a test flight when I kept the throttle at 100% for too long and suffered an engine failure! It is at this point that I would like to point out that the A-7 glides like a rock, so any loss of power will leave you with very little options for your forced landing site.

           

    On take-off, the aircraft has a natural tendency to gradually pitch up ultimately requiring stick input or nose-down trim to prevent loss of airspeed. The climb will continue steadily to about 30,000 feet when the nose will begin to drop again. Once established in level cruise, be careful to throttle back and observe engine operating limits to avoid failure.

    Visual Features

    "Eye candy" is abundant with the RAZBAM A-7. Among those moving parts are all control surfaces, refuelling probe, canopy, speed brake, landing gear, launch bar, arresting hook and retracting crew steps. A pilot animation is included, although this disappears whenever the canopy is opened.

    The aircraft can be loaded with an assortment of stores including fuel tanks, iron bombs, air to air missiles and Zuni rockets. Configuring the aircraft is a bit convoluted though, unless you are happy carrying nothing but external fuel tanks. To allow ordnance to be carried, you must drain all fuel form the aircraft (with the exception of the central fuselage tanks) within the FSX fuel management window. Once this is done, you can access the stores panel using the Shift-1 combination. However, to replicate real life, this panel can only be accessed with the parking brakes set and the aircraft engine off. If you meet all these parameters, you will find the stores panel pops up. My only criticism here is that the resolution of the print font on this panel is low making the labels hard to read.

           

    Once configured, the stores can be fired/dropped only after being armed via the weapons control panel inside the cockpit. You can arm single stations or a combination of stations depending on your weapons/mission needs. You can also configure the weapons to drop as single devices, or in pairs with each press of the button.

    Technical Features

    Two extremely detailed operating manuals are included in the download and installed in their own folder. Each manual varies slightly from the other, according to differences in the variant performance. In reading these manuals, I found my first complaint. There are a number of minor spelling and grammatical errors in each of the manuals. Whilst the message being conveyed is not lost or altered, I do feel that this detracts slightly from the overall presentation. This aside, the manuals are presented well and are written in a logical order which flows easily. All aircraft systems are explained in detail including explaining functions of individual switches even when their operation was unable to be replicated due to FSX limitations.

    All models can be loaded with droppable ordnance, although in free flight mode, only the release/drop animation is available. The manual states that explosion and target damage effects are used during mission flights and even then depending on whether they were catered for by the mission creator. No missions were included with the installation of this aircraft, which is disappointing given the extent to which the RAZBAM team have modelled the ordnance. In order to be able to drop ordnance with this aircraft, you must map a new key assignment within FSX. The operator's manual includes very clear instructions on how to do this.

    Strangely, what is missing is any form of checklist or instructions on how to start or shut down the aircraft. In fact, it appears that the only way to start or stop the engine is using the default Shift-E combination. Whilst I don't necessarily see this as a major fault, I know that some users will be frustrated by this.

    Please note, I am not associated with product designer, and do not offer technical support for their products. Any emails to me for assistance will be politely returned referring you to the designer in the first instance.

           

    The Verdict

    My first impression in taking the A-7 for a quick circuit of my favourite aerodrome was positive. Aside from being a little sluggish in the roll axis, it was predictable and easy to fly. Further experimentation and experience in using the aircraft systems as they were designed to be used has done nothing but increase my opinion of this package. Let me reiterate though that if you do not closely manage the engine, it will fail leaving you to attempt a forced landing in an aircraft that doesn't glide well.

    Overall, my testing of this aircraft was positive. I would like to have seen a mission or two included in the release to really show off the droppable weapons but it is very clear that the designers have gone to a great deal of trouble to produce an aircraft model that is as close to the real thing as they could manage. I only hope that some third party designers out there come up with some purpose-built missions to do this aircraft justice!

    Because of the complexities involved in engine and systems management, I wouldn't recommend this aircraft for novice simmers. The more experienced virtual pilots though should find this enjoyable, and worth the cost.

    Test System

    FSX Acceleration & DX9
    AMD 64 X2 Dual Core 4600+ 2.4 GHz
    2 GB RAM
    Saitek X52 stick & throttle

    References

    Aero Web
    Wikipedia

    Scott Woodford
    [email protected]

    Learn More Here


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