The DCS Su-25T Frogfoot is the only attack aircraft in my simulated stable right now. In the interests of cooperation, parvusimperator learned to fly it a few nights ago, and has recounted his experience with it here for your edification. -Fish
As resident NATO-trained attack pilot, I took to the Su-25T without too much trouble. It certainly helped that this sim uses somewhat simplified modeling, so startup was a breeze. I can’t help but feel that the A-10C and the Su-25T are designed for very different missions. The A-10C has JDAMS and LGBs, some of which are quite large (2,000 lb. class). It also has Mavericks, which are a nice blend of fire-and-forget-ness and range. On the other hand, the Su-25T carries Vikhr ATGMs, and why the A-10C can’t equip Hellfires is beyond me. It would really improve tankbusting capability. Alas, the Su-25T only carries 16 Vikhrs, which some Soviet pencil-pusher probably figured was enough. However, the A-10C at least has some weapons that can do the same job as the Vikhrs. As for Vikhr employment, they’re very fast, but you have to maintain the target lock until impact, just like a Sparrow. The speed makes up for any inconvenience.
The bigger oversight in the A-10 is the inability to carry ARMs. The Su-25T can carry an ELINT pod to help you find SAM radars and Kh-58 and Kh-25MPU antiradiation missiles to kill them. With the A-10C, you have to rely on the Maverick, which basically means you can only kill Osa and Strela-1 SAMs with any degree of safety. Strela-10s can be engaged with care.
The A-10C’s avionics really put it ahead of the Su-25T. The MFDs, Digital stores management, moving map capability, and, most especially, Litening Targeting Pod capability dramatically improve flyability. The Litening pod’s electro-optical sensors are stabilized, so airframe buffeting doesn’t show up in your display. It will also remember where it was pointing provided you don’t exceed it’s G-limits, which is next to impossible in the A-10C. So the pod will helpfully remain pointed at the bit of dirt, Soviet armored vehicle or terrorist’s left nostril that you were looking at before you decided to turn to bring weapons to bear or evade ground fire. This also lets the experienced Hog-driver orbit either around the target area or next to the target area while he searches. The one advantage of the Shkval and/or Khod on the Su-25T is that since it is forward-aspect only, you always see an indication of where it’s searching in your HUD, making searching with visual references in front of you much easier for the novice pilot.
The Digital Stores Management System (DSMS, pronounced diz-miz) is super convenient, and analog systems don’t even come close. DSMS lets you select which pylon you want to launch stores from (helpful for balance), tells you how many rockets you have remaining, and lets you set fusing options and targeting modes (e.g. CCIP/CCRP). The A-10C’s presentation of CCIP and CCRP are better, as they help you fly onto the correct path to hit your target.
As mentioned before, the Su-25T handles better than the A-10C full stop. It’s faster and more agile. Ground handling is a bit tricky, and that is the one handling vice of the type. The Su-25T is also not well equipped for loitering, using thirsty turbojet engines.
I will also add that the Su-25T’s weapons encourages close flying, so I got to test how well the Rook could withstand 12.7mm BMG rounds the hard way. Several passes over M1 Abrams tanks had resulted in my plane being positively riddled, causing Flight Instructor Fishbreath to recommend that I return to base twice. I did no such thing and pressed my attack until I was happy I killed enough tanks. Afterwards, damage assessment from my instructor indicated that my plane was riddled with holes and it was missing several panels. However, handling wasn’t very impaired, which impressed me (and was the reason I had kept attacking, since it seemed like nothing important was damaged). Airbrakes deployed fine on my final approach. Given damage to my wings and flaps, my instructor suggested not using flaps to avoid a spin if only one of them deployed. At approach altitude, I agreed. Passing the outer marker, I put my gear down. But main gear did not budge. I opted for a belly landing, and continued with the approach. As my plane jolted to the ground, I deployed my parachute, but it didn’t seem to do anything. Eventually I skidded to a stop and shut down my engines. Now I could take a look at the external view, which showed that the part of the tail holding the braking chute was completely shot away. But despite all of the damage and missing bits, the Rook brought me home alive, and earns that special place in my heart, along with other ugly-but-tough planes like the Hog and the Wildcat.
With the newfound SEAD ability, Fishbreath and my now-proficient self decided we would go SAM-killin’. I took the ELINT pod and ARMs to kill SAM radars, and he took rockets and cluster bombs to kill TELs and command vehicles. We took off simultaneously, and then held formation like pros into the target until we started getting lit up by search radars. Our targets were an MIM-23 Hawk battery, an 9K37 Buk (SA-11 Gadfly) battery and an 9K33 Osa (SA-8 Gecko) battery. My plan was to hit the Hawk and the Buk with long-range Kh-58s, and then nail the Osa with a Kh-25MPU. Fishbreath would then destroy remaining launchers and command vehicles with cluster bombs and rockets. Closest to our ingress route was the Hawk battery, and it is very unnerving to hear that it has locked onto you while you wait for the battery to come within range of your missiles.
Accompanied by the Bomb Run theme from Dr. Strangelove, I shoved my throttles to the stops and bore in on the Hawk battery at full power. I launched one Kh-58 at it, and then turned to engage the Buk. By now I was much closer to the Buk, so I was able to launch shortly after acquiring it. I then promptly turned away hard to stay out of range of the missiles and avoid reprisals. Once I noted that the missiles had hit their targets, I engaged the Osa battery with a Kh-25MPU. After impact, I thought my threat display ought to be clear, and at first it was.
After only the briefest of moments, it became clear that there were still active radars. I detected radars from the Buk and the Hawk still active. I thought that we probably only had search radars left, but I decided to silence the infernal beeping of the RWR just the same. I rolled in on the Buk, locked it up, and fired my other Kh-25MPU. Bozhe moi! It blew up just in front of my nose! Clearly capitalist spies had gotten to our missile stocks. Also, I was out of ARMs. I would have to use other missiles. And, unfortunately, I couldn’t directly cue these with the ELINT pod. So I got my flightpath so that the radar icon was near an attitude marking on my HUD, then switched to air-to-ground mode and engaged the Buk search radar with a Kh-25ML. That target down, I decided to finish off the Hawk sensors. After a few tries, the same technique worked like a charm. Fishbreath finished off the battery with some rockets, guided in by smoke from the burning radars.
Landing the Su-25T with its parachute was quite fun. The return from this flight was my first proper landing in a fully functional plane and ILS cues made it a breeze.