• Operation Apache by RDJ Simulations

    Review: Operation Apache by RDJ Simulations

    By Bill Stack (28 November 2010)


    Screen shots by RDJ Simulations



    Operation Apache is a collection of 14 military missions conducted in Irag and Afghanistan. Eight of the missions are daylight, and the others are nighttime. A flyable Apache helicopter is provided.

    RDJ Simulations heralds these among other features of its Operation Apache:

    • Accurate historic combat locations in Iraq and Afghanistan
    • Delay-loaded weapons
    • Single and multiplayer capabilities for up to 12 players,
    • A mission-ready detailed Apache helicopter with flares and sound effects
    • Information for adding your own helicopter

    The Afghanistan War began in October 2001 to capture Osama Bin Laden personally, his Al-Qaeda international terrorist organization, and the Taliban government that provided safe haven for international terrorism. It evolved into an ongoing civil war between the democratic government installed by the United States versus the ousted Taliban.

    The Iraq War begin in 2003 to oust then dictator Saddam Hussein. The insurgency that soon arose continues waging civil war with the democratic government installed by the United States and the occupying international peace-keeping forces.

    The Apache helicopter is a twin-engined army attack helicopter developed in the early 1980s by McDonnell Douglas, which was later acquired by Boeing. It was first used in combat in 1989 in the US military action in Panama. Later it was used in Operation Desert Storm, and it has supported peacekeeping operations worldwide such as Bosnia and Kosovo. The U.S. Army has more than 800 Apaches in service, and more than 1,000 have been exported to countries including Egypt, Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom.

    RDJ Simulations is a flightsim enterprise started and operated by Ron Jeffers, "an ex-military USMC guy." The goal of RDJ Simulations is "to provide mission addons that cross simulation with lots of action," he explains. Other products offered by RDJ Simulations include missions for Vietnam, World War II Pacific, and a space-shuttle launch. The Iraq and Afghanistan missions were developed "to honor all who have served in those regions and because that is where the action really was and is."


    PURCHASE FEATURES

    Instant download from the Pilot Shop

    YES

    Installation program

    YES

    License key required

    NO

    Copyright acknowledgment required

    NO

    Manual included

    NO

    Checklists & reference data included

    NO

    Uninstall program included

    NO




    The Missions

    Fourteen missions appear in the FSX Mssions list under the names "RDJ_OP_APACHE_etc., with "etc." being the name of the specific mission such as "Bagdad_air_support." Eight are daylight, and six are nighttime. Each mission is briefly described in a list in a Read-Me text file and in the mission-selection list in FSX, as shown in the screen shots below.


    Mission Selection List Mission Selection List Mission Selection List Mission Selection List
    Screen shot by Bill Stack



    All 14 missions are interesting, challenging, and entertaining. The upper left corner of the simulator screen shows the mission name, a compass rose, and data about the distance to the target and the target's altitude. The target is identified by a huge green marker that extends well above the Apache's current altitude. The objective is to reach that target and attack it without being shot down. The compass rose and the huge marker make failing to find these targets impossible, so the successful engagements are the ultimate challenge.

    The first mission I tried was Oil Rig. The specific objective of this mission is "to take out enemy boats that are trying to seize an oil rig," according to its description. "If successful," it says, "you will be directed to bomb some of the open burning oil spickets they set on fire ... your hellfire missiles will put them out ... good luck." The mission starts in the desert and goes out to sea.

    In the Scudbusters mission, the objective is to attack two scud launchers in the desert with Hellfire missiles. All the other choppers in your squadron leave without you, and you have to catch up. If the mission fails, as mine did, a failure-announcement screen appears, and the flight log records what happened. (See screen shots.)

    The objective of Bagdad Air Support is to provide air support for troops in several locations of the city. "Watch out for the flak," the description warns. This mission is accompanied by audio of voice traffic among the helicopters. As seen in the screen shot, the targets are small, inconspicuous, and hidden among other urban features, which makes it much more challenging than other missions.

    Plunder Thunder is a night mission whose objective is to chase enemy troops fleeing the city with captured loot. Orders are "to take them out."

    A text file named "Install - Read First" says: "Some missions recommend FSX NIGHT VISION found here." That site requires an access code that's good for only 30 minutes. In response to my question, the developer replied: "After Googling for several hours this was the (only) site for me that worked ... everywhere else failed to get a download of it for me." Thus, this site is not affiliated with RDJ Simulations and is only recommended as a source.


    VIEWS OF SOME MISSIONS
    Bagdad Air Support Tank Busters Mission Base Camp

    Panel Image
    Big Oil

    Big Oil Rig & Boats Mission Base Camp

    Scudbuster Mission Mission Failure Warning Mission Failure Report

    Screen shots by Bill Stack



    Technical Features

    Purchasing and installing this aircraft is very easy. No license key or legal agreement are required.

    A text file named "Install - Read First" explains requirements and procedures for installing and uninstalling the product. Among those requirements is the need for the FSX Acceleration Expansion Pack, which is now included free in FSX Gold according to the Flight Sim Pilot Shop. Certain objects are available only with this version, and some objects in Operation Apache will not appear without it. This requirement is stated in the product description.

    The "Install - Read First" text file advises to be sure the path is correct if using the installation program. That program wants to install the missions and aircraft into the FSX folder, and it shows a warning about overwriting that folder. The installation guidance advises to click "Yes." Not wanting to overwrite an important program folder, however, I installed into \FSX\Missions\Military instead. A notice appears upon successful installation saying that the missions can be uninstalled via Windows Add/Remove programs.

    When I selected my first mission, an error message appeared saying the Apache helicopter could not be found. I bypassed this message, and a Cessna 172 appeared instead. Investigation of this problem revealed errors in the configuration files the simulator needs for displaying and operating this Apache aircraft. After I fixed those errors, the Apache loaded normally every time.

    Inclusion of this Apache helicopter is secondary to the missions, meaning it is provided to enable the missions to be conducted realistically. Resolution is elementary, night effects are primative, 3D cockpits are rudimentary, instrument panels are blurry, and instruments don't appear at all at night. Although this Apache is not of the highest quality, it is suitable for the purpose, however. Users can install and use their own helicopters if desired, and the "Read First" text file explains how that is done.

    Although there is no 2D instrument panel in most of the missions, the Apache helicopter in the Big Oil mission has a heads-up display in lieu of the normal 2D panel. The 3D panels for all the missions are blurry and difficult to read, even with my simulator's display set to maximum resolution.

    Technical support is available via an email address in the "Install - Read First" text file. Responses were quick, which bodes well for users needing assistance.

    In response to my technical questions, the developer issued a patch that corrects problems I found in the configuration files and provides additional instructions. This patch is available via this link the developer provided to me: Operation Apache Patch. He also said the patch would be emailed to all customers and zipped into the original package.


    COCKPIT AND PANELS
    Panel Image
    3D Panel
    Heads Up Screen
    Cockpit Image
    3D Virtual Cockpit
    Cockpit Image
    3D Virtual Cockpit

    Screen shots by Bill Stack



    Flight Modeling

    Although the modeling-configuration file references the RDJ Apache, the aircraft.cfg file contains references to the Bell Jet Ranger, and this Apache helicopter flies much like the Jet Ranger.

    Knowledge of and experience with basic helicopter operations is requisite because no flight guidance is provided. There are no checklists, no reference tables, and no manuals. The blurry instruments are of no help. Novices can learn from trial and error, but their resultant flight methods might not be the best.


    NIGHT EFFECTS
    Night Image
    Apache 3D Panel
    Night Image
    Apache Exterior

    Night Image
    Big Oil
    Night Image
    Scudbuster
    Screen shots by Bill Stack



    Special Features

    Pilots can fire Hellfire missiles at targets by using the SHIFT/D keys, and those missiles track moving and stationary targets. The "Install - Read First" text file recommends remapping those keys "for hands on flying and shooting," and it explains how to do this. Initially, none of my missiles fired regardless of how many times I hit the SHIFT/D keys, even when the Apache was pointed straight at the targets. In response to my question, the developer issued a patch that corrects this problem and provides additional instructions.

    Sound effects include radio traffic among Apache helicopter pilots and their ground controllers in each mission.

    If you are hit by an enemy rocket or missile, as I was in one of the missions, your helicopter burns, smokes, then plummets toward the ground.

    A log records the success or failure of each mission you fly.

    More Information

    The following site(s) are recommended by RDJ Simulations for information about the Iraq and Afghanistan battles on which these missions were based:

    Information about the real Apache Helicopter can be found at these websites, among others:

    Summary

    RDJ Simulation's Operation Apache missions are challenging, entertaining, and fun to do. Their various features reflect a lot of research and work, from the miscellaneous simulation objects, to the enemy fire, and mission logs. The Apache helicopter is okay, but not the best aircraft available. Installation of the whole product requires attention to where the files are going because so many items such as aircraft, sounds, and scenery objects are being loaded into so many different folders. The primary product &#8212 the 14 missions &#8212 is an excellent approach to simulating combat missions in a noncombat simulator such as FSX. The developer's prompt response to my questions, including issuing a correction patch, bodes very well for users with technical needs.


    Bill Stack
    [email protected]


    Learn More About RDJ Simulations' Operation Apache


    Bill Stack is author of several books about flight simulation, a regular author in flight-sim magazines, and a contributor to Flight Sim Com. His website is www.topskills.com


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