When most people think of modern carrier based attack aircraft they usually think of the versatile F/A-18, the BAe Sea Harrier, or the new Rafale M (my apologies in advance if I forgot anyone's favorite). But one that is often overlooked is the Dassault Super Etendard....
The predecessor of the Super Etendard, the Etendard IV, resulted from the French government request for proposals for a light interceptor following the Korean War. These requirements soon evolved to include an additional role as a light bomber. In response Dassault-Breguet developed the Etendard IV/M (Marine), which was to be the manufacturer's first naval aircraft, with the prototype aircraft first flying in 1956 wearing the triangular flag insignia alluding to the meaning of the aircraft name in French: Standard. The Aéronavale Francaise (French Navy) acquired 69 Etendard IV/M aircraft as well as 21 of the IV/P (Photo reconnaissance) models - some of which still remain in service to this day.
The Super Etendard - which first flew in 1974 and entered service in 1978 - is a significantly updated version of the Etendard IV sporting an advanced weapons system and a modern navigation and combat management suite. About 50 of the 71 original aircraft serving in the 11F, 14F and 17F Flotilles (squadrons) of the Aéronavale Francaise were improved in order to carry the nuclear missile ASMP. This modernized version, with updated avionics and new Anémone radar, flew in October 1990. A second modernization program of 54 Super Etendard (called "Super Etendard Modernisé" or "SEM") began in 1992 and will allow them to serve in the 11F and 17F Flotilles up to 2008.
Flown by Argentinean pilots, the Super Etendard, paired with the lethal AM39 Exocet missile, proved its deadly worth during the Falklands war with Britain in 1982. Unlike the shadowy form of the Daggers and Skyhawks seen in newsreels the world over as they swept at low level across the islands (invariably with Sea Harriers in close pursuit), the Super Etendard launched their missiles from beyond visual range and turned home not knowing the outcome until watching the TV news later that evening. As such, this particular aircraft holds especially bitter memories with many UK servicemen whose colleagues were sadly lost with the sinking of ships such as HMS Sheffield and Atlantic Conveyer.
In similar fashion the Super Etendard/Exocet combination was used by the Iraqi Air Force during the Iran-Iraq war of the mid-1980s in an attempt to disrupt the Iranian economy (not to mention that part of the world's ecology) by sinking oil tankers. In Aéronavale Francaise service the Super Etendard has seen action over Africa, the Gulf, Lebanon, Yugoslavia, and Kosovo. Nowadays, the Super Etendard is the main attack force aboard the French carrier "Charles de Gaulle".
Romain Lucas has released a new FS2002 version of this aircraft featuring three visual configurations, three texture sets, a virtual cockpit, and an instrument panel including new instruments by himself, his brother Laurent, and Eric Marciano.
This Gmax designed aircraft has faithfully captured the smooth and unique lines of the Super Etendard, especially the characteristic droop of the nose section. It is extensively animated. The usual items are present: all control surfaces, gear and gear doors, and air brakes. Romain Lucas has gone the extra steps to include working auxiliary intake doors, arrestor hook, spoilers that deploy depending on the amount of roll, opening canopy, steerable and compressible nose gear, folding wings, and a complete 3D cockpit. Romain has even put himself in the cockpit this time.
Romain has also modeled the slat and flap movement realistically. There are only two positions: half slats, and full slats with full flaps. To take off from a runway, Aéronavale pilots typically extend only the slats and to take off from a carrier, they use full slats with full flaps. There is no partial extension to either. When the trailing edge flaps are extended, the rear part of the elevator lifts. This is by design to "ward off" the pitch down moment created by the big flaps.
Three visual models are included each with a unique texture set. These consist of one with the original 600-litre external fuel tanks in Argentina Armada colors, one with the larger 1100-litre external tanks in the current two-tone gray camouflage worn by the Aéronavale Francaise, and a clean configuration in the original Aéronavale blue-gray color. Small differences among the three versions in the shapes of antennas have also been included.
The flight dynamics are very realistic and getting them that way required research beyond just reading Jane’s. Romain lives in Brest, France, the largest French military harbor on the French Atlantic coast and very near Landivisiau, the largest Base AéroNavale (BAN) in France. During development Romain was able to discuss in detail the flight dynamics of the Super Etendard with pilots from Flotille 11F at Landivisiau. According to Romain, "You may have read that the Super Etendard could reach Mach 1.3 but I've been told by pilots its max speed is only Mach 0.98 in normal conditions."
The aircraft is a joy to fly; very realistic with careful trim required throughout the flight envelope. Romain told me, "You have to play with the trim all the time but it's the same in the real aircraft." All three aircraft versions share a common flight dynamics file with the differences between them being accomplished by adjusting the fuel capacity under aircraft settings. With very responsive ground steering and brakes, the aircraft is as easy to maneuver along taxiways as it is in the air.
The updated SEM "standard 4" instrument panel background was made from photos of the real thing. Romain, with assistance from his brother Laurent, has made several new instruments specific to this aircraft. The radar and HUD are by Eric Marciano. Starting with the latest version of his popular Mirage 4000 radar/HUD, Eric has updated it specifically for this instrument panel. After installation you'll find GIF images explaining all the details of the instrument panel and radar system. Commit these to memory and you can't go wrong. Additional documentation is provided in the on-screen checklist and reference information pages.
The virtual cockpit is very complete with all of the important gauges being functional including the HUD. This makes intercepts of AI aircraft even easier and more realistic. Carrier landings are easier from this view as well. The control stick, rudders, and many of the cockpit levers move as the various external components move. Again the textures are based on photographs of the real aircraft.
No sounds files are provided so you have a couple of options. By default the aircraft will use the Lear45 files for a nice civilian-style jet sound. As a better and actually pretty accurate option you can use the sound files from Kirk Olsson's Mirage F1CR (F1V2.ZIP) released last year. The Super Etendard uses the SNECMA Atar 8K50 engine. This is the same basic Atar 9K50 engine used in the Mirage F1 and Mirage 50 but without the afterburner.
This aircraft looks great but to truly experience it you have to fly it. So come along for a carrier launch from the French carrier Charles de Gaulle (R91), a little navigation exercise to Landivisiau BAN, and back again for a carrier trap. Hopefully along the way you’ll get an understanding of most of the bells and whistles in the cockpit.
The default FS2002 scenery leaves a little to be desired when it comes to military facilities. Obviously our starting point, R91, is not among the carriers included with FS2002 so we'll use the add-on scenery by Joël Maillot. After installation you'll find the ship steaming northward in the Mer d'Iroise off the coast of France. Our destination will be BAN Landivisiau (LFRJ) northeast of Brest. The Landivisiau navigation aids included with FS2002 only provide DME (NAV set to 115.15) with the radio suite on this aircraft so I've installed the add-on scenery by Sonny to also give us some directional clues. Tune the NAV on the small glass screen to the left of the radar to 110.50 to pick up the VOR signal from Landivisiau after we are airborne. Dial in some weather to keep it interesting: scattered clouds and visibility at 20 miles or less. Leave the precipitation alone but put in a 30kt headwind blowing from due north to simulate the carrier cruising along pointed into the wind.
You'll be hard pressed to successfully launch from the carrier unless you have the ArrestorCables program by Richard Hogen installed. It's not readily available anymore as freeware but is part of a Flight Deck III package from Abacus. As an option you might be able to make the launch by positioning yourself at the very end of the deck and use the full length to blast your way into the sky or sea (whichever comes first). Another option is to skip the launch portion and just slew out a couple of miles to the north with a couple thousand feet altitude. But lets assume you've been interested in naval aviation for a while and do have the software installed. When selecting the catapult to launch from I prefer the port side (Babord Catapulte) on this ship because I always seem to crash into the building when I do a spot view from the front (Avant Catapulte). Extend the slats and flaps to full extended position [F8]. You can tell that they are fully extended by looking at the three white triangular indicators on the gauge to the bottom left of the panel. Extend them and retract them until you understand how the gauge works. Tap the Num-1 key a few times for some "up" trim. The trim value is displayed on the bottom of the glass radio gauge to the left of the radar.
Turn on all the lights so the rescue helicopter can find you if something goes wrong and you end up swimming. Just a quick note about the four light switches on the left half of the panel. Going from left to right, the first turns on the navigation lights, the next one turns on the (cool looking) blue wingtip formation lights, the next turns on the dorsal beacon, and the fourth turns on the panel/cockpit lights. The white light on the underside is normally used by the pilot to communicate with other pilots during radio silence but just comes on solid in this simulation. Just to get acquainted with the switches, turn off the blue wingtip lights since we’ll be flying solo on this one.
With ArrestorCables running set the parking brakes and hit Shift-F9 to arm the catapult.
So that we are headed in the right direction after launch (up) pull back on the control stick a little. Advance the throttle to full, listen to the engine whine for a couple of seconds (it needs to be at 95% rpm for ArrestorCables to launch us), and hit the period [.] key to disengage the brakes.
Whoosh! We’re off. Raise the gear. Watch for the single red light on the gear status gauge to come on. Then the three greens lights will turn off and then the red light will turn off. When the gear is up there are no lights. Retract the flaps [F6]. Watch the rear two white triangles go away. Retract the slats [F5]. Watch the single remaining triangle go away. With a 20-degree angle of climb you’re probably climbing through 3000 feet and 300kts at this point.
Ease off the throttle. Level off somewhere below 10,000 feet and slow to 250. We’ve got a ways to go so call up the ATC. Contact Iroise and ask for clearance through the Bravo airspace. While we cruise here for a few minutes adjust the trim until you see the green circle on the angle-of-attack indicator to the left of the HUD.
Let’s take this opportunity to use the autopilot. Below the cowling on the left side of the panel you’ll find three buttons: PA, ALT, and AM. The way this autopilot works is to fly to the desired airspeed, altitude or heading and then push the appropriate button. The AM button locks (or captures) the current airspeed. The ALT button locks in the current altitude. And the PA button locks the current heading. In the AP ALT mode the aircraft oscillates around the locked altitude. The P-> and C-> indicate whether you are above or below this locked altitude. According to Romain it is really quite useless; in the real aircraft the pilots use it to help the AP to reaching the altitude by using it as a guide for trimming up or down.
In a moment the needle on the navigation gauge will wake up and the distance will show about 28 miles. Turn so the needle is straight up. We’ll get on the radio in a moment to let Landivisiau know we’re coming but first let’s see if there are any other aircraft out there today.
Eric Marciano’s (I know, proper French nouns aren’t supposed to be possessive) latest radar gauge now includes keyboard controls and the default mode is off. Use the [*] and [/] keys on the Numpad to cycle among the modes. Use the [+] and [-] keys to cycle through the ranges. Adjust it to the forward arc mode (looks like a windshield wiper) and a range of 40 miles and make sure we have clear skies.
When the needle is almost pointing to the right make a right turn to 090. Can I do that with the PA button on? Sure. The autopilot just locks in this new heading when you level out. Select airport in ATC, contact Landivisaiau (Landi) tower, and request a full stop landing. After those tasks are complete you can relax for a few moments.
Depending on the weather you set up, at about 17 miles out you’ll see a population area to the right. That is Brest. Wave to Romain Lucas, he lives down there. The airport just beyond that is Brest-Guipavas Aerodrome (LFRB), not our destination. Once Guipavas is to your right another runway off in the distance will appear. That’s where we’re headed, about 12 miles away now.
Turn off all three autopilot buttons. Reduce speed to below 200kts and start descending to below 3000 ft. The altitude of the BAN is 350 ft. Use the air brakes if you need to. If you use them an orange light will illuminate on the left side of the panel. Use that light as a reminder to retract them. At about 180kts extend the slats [F7]. Watch for the white triangle on the gauge. Adjust the throttle as needed to keep that speed. Landivisaiau will be to our right. We’re right where ATC wanted us. Watch the needle. When it is pointing to the right lower the gear. Watch for the single red light to go on followed by three greens that will remain on. Then the red light will go off when the gears doors are in position.
We’re going to do this Navy style and make a very short final. Extend the flaps -- three triangles will show. Start your turn. The needle will continue to point at the end of the runway so just watch your speed, altitude, and that needle. At just under 1000 ft the needle will probably go to sleep but by then you should have the runway in sight.
As you approach the threshold you’ll see some black area at the end of the runway. Those are cables. Go past them. As you exit the runway retract the flaps and slats [F5], fold the wings if you like and open the canopy to get a cool breeze.
OK, break’s over. We’re ready to head back to the carrier. Call up the tower and request taxi to takeoff with a westbound departure. You’ll be told to taxi to runway 26. As you head over there set the NAV frequency to 114.25. Once we get airborne that will pick up the signal from the carrier so it won’t be quite so difficult to find. Also make sure the wingtips and canopy have been lowered in case you raised them earlier. The result will be less drag and more lift. Plus it won’t be quite so noisy and the ground crew will appreciate not having to reinstall the canopy. Since we’re taking off from a nice long concrete runway set the slats to half extended [F7 once]. Give it a little “up” trim [Num-1] for good measure. When in position holding short call up the tower and tell them you’re ready to go. Once you get the go-ahead, acknowledge and turn off the ATC window [~]. Taxi onto runway 26, get lined up and push the throttle forward to begin the takeoff run. At about 140kts, pull back a little on the stick. You should be airborne by 150 to 160 – less than half way down the runway. Get the gear retracted before 200kts, about even with the tower.
As soon as we retract the landing gear we’ll get on the radio to ATC again and contact Brest-Guipavas Aerodrome (LFRB) to request a touch and go just for fun – it’s on the way. Keep the slats extended and the speed under 200 or we’ll be there before they have time to give us the go-ahead, it’s only about 12nm away. Depending on how busy the radio chatter is we may have to abort because we can’t get permission for the touch and go in time. While working the radio turn left to about 240. You’ll see the airport come into view. The specs say we can land at 126kts so shoot for that. The runway heading is 260. Don’t break the airplane here (remember to lower the gear) because we’ve still got a ways to go.
As you climb out from Guipavas clean up the aircraft. The DME for the carrier will indicate about 16 miles at a heading of 230. Continue on a heading of 260. Since we’re heading west we’ll let that needle swing all the way to the left before we make our turn south. If it makes you feel better to have the direction ring oriented correctly you can adjust it with the small knob to the right. Let’s keep the speed at 200 and the altitude at 5000. You can use the autopilot described earlier to hold that for you but we’ll be turning in just a moment so you might want to fly this one manually.
When the needle is pointing directly left look out the left side and you’ll see the carrier. It’s about nine miles away. Begin a nice gentle turn. Speed should be about 200kts. Throttle back and trade altitude at a rate of about 1500 fps to keep the speed around 200kts. If you can’t see the carrier come into view don’t worry about it. As long as that needle is to the left of center you haven’t missed it. We’re going to fly over the carrier once before turning to final so keep the speed up and the altitude above 3000. Once we pass overhead the needle will swing to the bottom. We’re going to fly over to that piece of land up ahead and begin our turn back. Once you come out of the turn you’ll probably be about 10 miles out. Since this is an angle deck turn so the needle is a little to the right of center. The angle deck is at a heading of 360.
The environmentalists won’t like this but reduce the amount of fuel you have onboard. I dump the external tanks if they are being carried and reduce the onboard fuel to 50% both sides.
As we approach the carrier make a quick glance at the navigation instrument in the top right of the panel. Notice the distance counter going down. At about 8 miles out extend the slats and pull back the throttle as necessary to get the speed down below 180kts. If you have to use the air brakes do so but only for very short periods – retract well before you reach the target speed or you’ll fall right through it. If that happens you may be able to make it up by lowering the nose if you have some spare altitude. If not, apply some throttle but not too much or you’ll find yourself going back and forth between power up, power back, brakes out, brakes in, and so on. If it gets ridiculous, call it off and go around.
By the time I'm six miles out I have the slats and flaps fully extended. Then by five miles out I drop the hook and lower the gear so I can get the speed set. As you drop the hook you'll see one additional white triangle appear on that now familiar gauge. Make a quick glance to verify that there are three greens on the gear position. You should have a 30kt headwind from earlier so we'll shoot for the 126kt approach speed. I'm used to the faster approach speeds of the Mirage (not on a carrier) with no slowing down until the tires chirp so I tend to come in a little faster but not much. I just feel better having some of the speed already applied in case I have to bolter and go around.
At the base of the HUD is the radar altitude (RA) and ground speed (GS). At this altitude they are both pretty true. So use that information. If the center HUD scale is in the way you can turn it off. See the panel instructions GIF file for the switch that does that. If you want a completely clear view, Shift-2 will turn the HUD off completely. The distance to the carrier is on the navigation gauge just a couple of inches to the right and down.
Final seconds. It gets a little hairy here but after a few misses and crashes into the back of the ship you'll get the hang of where you need to be by looking at the carrier landing aid and flying the aircraft so the panel and windscreen are positioned where they need to be against the scenery. Make very gentle adjustments to the control stick to keep things lined up. Do not try to watch it hit the wires. That's what Instant Replay is for. Just hit the deck where the wires should be and if you did it right you'll stop before you roll off the end. If you bounce you'll probably pass right over the wires. If you feel yourself still moving slam the throttle forward and pull back on the stick - you missed the wires. Go around and try it again.
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