From last night's epic dogfight:
It's me in a P-51D versus an AI in a P-51D! I'm in the orange-nosed, Normandy-striped one. The AI appears to be flying one in Soviet Union markings, though I wasn't aware of the USSR flying American hardware.
We start with a number of close passes as we size one another up. This becomes a bit of a theme.
This shot was taken with me pointing almost straight upwards to get him under my gun pipper. This also becomes a running theme.
The P-51 had fairly high performance for its time, but that didn't mean it was capable of accelerating straight upwards (I believe the F-15 was the first fighter capable of that). We both stall and enter freefall; I don't have enough airspeed to be able to make course corrections here, so I can't get my guns on him. Had I noticed earlier, I could perhaps have pushed my nose up and used the inertia to put him in my crosshair, but I'm really not that good a pilot yet.
It's remarkable how frequently we got within spitting distance of one another.
I'm not as good a pilot as the AI seems to be*, so it takes me longer to recover from a stall, meaning I frequently ended up worryingly close to the ground, leaving him with the odd opportunity to get some hits on me, but he wasn't being overly generous with his ammunition.
I however was firing off a burst almost every time I got him in my sights.
I finally get some good hits, and his plane starts leaving a smoke trail of some sort.
I line up for another pass as he makes another vaguely suicidal run for the upper atmosphere and.... err, why aren't my guns firing? It's at this point that I realise the P-51 seems to have no way of tracking its ammo usage. Yup, I'm all out. I pull up close enough for him to see my fillings, and bug out.
I figure it'd be nice to actually land this thing properly for a change, so I radio the nearest airfield and ask for a bearing. The P-51's navigational equipment is something I've not covered yet, but there's clearly a compass of sorts, so I use that and fly for about 12 miles as directed by the air traffic controller.
It takes me a while of circling around, but I do eventually find the runway. I plan on circling for a short while to kill some of my airspeed.
I take some hits as my landing gear is dropping into position. I actually lose the panel that covers the landing gear while it's stowed away.
I'm still flying way too fast at this point. My flaps are down as far as they'll go, and I'm flaring to try and make sure my front wheels touch the deck first, which should also bleed off some airspeed.
My first touchdown is as gentle as I could possibly make it, but I still end up bouncing off the runway. I try again, a little harder this time, but still no luck. A third attempt ends the same way, though I doubt I would have had enough runway to come to a stop anyway. I decide to go around and try again, wary that I'm still being targetted by my opponent. I think at this point I did actually try to retract the landing gear, but it didn't work. It was possibly damaged from that earlier attack. I don't increase my throttle too far, as I'm already travelling quickly enough, but I don't want to drop out of the sky.
This is an... unconventional angle to be approaching a runway from.
I touch down... just to the side of the actual concrete. Oops.
I bounce again. Damnit. I try once more and rather overdo my descent. My landing gear collapses and I skid over to the other side of the runway.
This is fine.
I hit the fuel shut-off switch and the fire stops (probably unrelated, but I felt I ought to try and do *something* about the fact that I was about to burn to death).
That.. umm.. that doesn't look safe.
Yeah. I'm sure that'll buff out.
So, err, yeah, the AI isn't quite as intelligent as I first thought. This happened in my first dogfight too, and I was once again awarded an air medal for this "kill". It's at this point that I go and read up on DCS' AI, and come away slightly disappointed. See, the AI was programmed for modern aircraft that shoot missiles at each other. They're perfectly capable of aiming a gun at you, but most air to air engagements end with the plane disintegrating after a single missile hit. That means that they don't strictly need to know how to fly when damaged, so they actually don't; their performance doesn't drop despite taking hits, which is why that guy managed to keep fighting despite something in his plane leaking or burning.
It's a bit of a shame, but it didn't really detract from what was a truly exhilarating game. I was pushing my plane beyond its limits, largely because I didn't know where said limits lay. I pulled out of a couple of spins, I saw the whites of my opponent's eyes several times, and it all ended in a spectacular fireball. I know complex simulators like this one aren't everyone's cup of tea, but this was absolutely fecking glorious, and I'd urge anyone with a decent joystick (the likes of which seem to be catching on again due to the resurrection of the space sim genre) to give it a try.