The UKMIL FSX Buccaneer S.2 is the latest in a long series of FS add-ons developed by the UK-based development team UKMIL. Like its real-world counterpart, the UKMIL FSX Buccaneer was also the result of a metamorphosis of design – in this case, its roots lay in another simulator platform. Developed initially by a well-known mod team for the Strike Fighters 2 combat flight simulator, the Buccaneer S.2 was completely converted to a bona-fide FSX model by the UKMIL team.
The UKMIL S.2 is available in only one model – the S.2B with bulged bomb bay door. That may seem limiting, given that the second generation of Buccaneers entailed the initial naval-spec S.2, the RAF-modified S.2A, the updated naval S.2C and S.2D. Furthermore, the South African Air Force ordered yet another version – the export S.50 mode, having hot-and-high airfield components (RATO rockets!) unique to that service’s requirements. Regardless, the fidelity of this Buccaneer S.2 is impressive for a freeware model. Apart from the standard animations, the UKMIL Buccaneer has a functioning arrestor hook, folding wings, and a superbly detailed swivelling nose radome. The nose hinges in two places – one hinge point brings the nose back to shorten the length for boarding the carrier elevator, and the other exposes the Ferranti Blue Parrot. Animation is via Shift+E+2.
The airbrake animation is another well-executed representation of the real Buccaneer. On both the actual aircraft and the UKMIL model, the airbrake opens in increments. The FSX S.2 allows the pilot to do this by either mapping the airbrake to an input device with an axis (like a throttle), or by incrementally rocking back the airbrake button (located on the throttle quadrant) in the VC. For approach and landing, the real Buccaneer employed drooped ailerons, tailplane flaps, as well as regular wing-mounted flaps. On the UKMIL S.2, the deployment of these three control surfaces are tied together in the operation of the regular flap function. The cockpit canopy slides back with Shift+E, and the pilot’s head moves left and right in concert with rudder/nosewheel steering. The navigator’s head is in a continuous panning motion – nice!
Shift+E+3 opens up the bomb bay – more on the weapons later. Finally, when engines are shut down, wheel chocks, intake and exhaust covers appear, and toggling the parking brake will remove the aircrew from their cockpits.
Although limited to only one base model, UKMIL gave the S.2 a wide breadth of paints: 19 in total. From the 1960s naval S.2 in grey and white, through to the Strike Command camouflage pattern of the 1980s – and culminating with the Gulf-war era desert and low-vis grey schemes; the UKMIL Buccaneer package offers a very broad representation of the S.2’s evolving markings. Pleasant surprises include 80’s era temporary Arctic and two-tone desert camouflage schemes, the latter featuring in the Buccaneer’s occasional participation in Red Flag Exercises. Notably absent are any of the South African Air Force paints – although now that the paintkit is available some repainters may take up the challenge. Additionally, UKMIL included some colourful development and civilian paints – including those from airframes flown by the Royal Aeronautical Establishment and the South African Thunder City team.
Naturally, so many paints on only one model means some historical inaccuracies are inevitable. The most obvious example of this relates to the bulged bomb bay door. This feature gave the real-world Buccaneer an additional 425 Imp Gal fuel capacity, and was only introduced on RAF Buccaneers. Since UKMIL bases their single model on the bulged bomb bay door configuration, the Royal Navy paint schemes look a bit out of place on that model. Similarly, the later period model includes certain equipment such as the Sky Guardian RWR that were not present on some of the earlier airframes represented by the paint set. Still, in the context of a freeware offering, UKMIL’s compromise is understandable.
The quality of the paints is superb. Panel lines and riveting are visible, but not over-emphasized. While the paints are not weathered per se, they have a visibly “used” feel; occasional streaks of grease are present and the scoring of the wing-top paint from the blast of the Boundary-Layer-Control vents is expertly rendered. Small details on the crew uniforms, fuselage stencilling and weapon markings make the pre-flight walk-around a pleasure on this aircraft.
Weapons & Stores
In addition to a wide breadth of paints, UKMIL offers a wide range of payload options on the S.2 Buccaneer by the use of the “fuel and payload” menu. The interface is extremely intuitive – by clicking Aircraft/Fuel and Payload/Change Payload, the pilot selects the payload in question by entering in the weight spelled out in the option. This applies not only to munitions and tanks – but to other removable items like the pylons themselves, the refuelling probe, and even the bomb bay doors.
Available weapons include Matra pods / SNEB rockets, Martel TV-guided missiles, CPU-123/B “Paveway” laser-guided bombs, AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and 1000 lbs conventional bombs. Sensor stores include AN/AVQ-23 Pave Spike Laser Pod, ECM pod, ACMI pod – even the rarely-used reconnaissance pod, which is mounted in lieu of the rotating door.
UKMIL did a good job of modelling the actual munitions. Small omissions include the white Matra pod (used on the earlier RAF versions with white undersides) as well as the Sea Eagle anti-shipping missile, but the majority of the available armament options are included in this package.
The quality of the 3D panel is a significant improvement over those in previous UKMIL aircraft. A late-model S2.B cockpit is used for all variants, but the instrument placement within the VC is fairly accurate compared to that model of the real-world Buccaneer. However, there are limitations in how the more complex systems aboard the Buccaneer can be experienced. For example, the pop-up nav panel has glass instruments, and engine systems live on a fairly generic looking pop-up panel. Notably absent is the ubiquitous British warnings panel, and a functioning bleed-air Boundary-Layer Control. Some functionality is also missing from the HSI, and unfortunately for aircraft carrier ops, the AOA does not work.
Flying the “Banana”
Reading from numerous accounts, most recently Pater Caygill’s book Flying the Buccaneer: Britain’s Cold War Warrior, the Buccaneer’s handling qualities were marginal below outside the low-and-fast regime for which it was designed. The UKMIL S.2 clearly reflects this bias in its handling.
A few circuits around Lossiemouth quickly generates confidence on the approach and landing procedures – provided the speed is held in check properly. Careful and incremental use of the airbrake transitions one from a comfortable pattern speed of around 175 kts (depending on the All-Up-Weight) to an approach speed of around 145 kts. Flaps and gear extension, together with airbrake, require correspondingly higher throttle – but if done by the numbers, touchdown occurs easily and comfortably at very close to 140kts. Robust brakes bring the Buccaneer to taxi speed in well under two thirds of the runway length.
Going out further and taking the S.2 on longer dashes over the Scottish countryside truly reveals the beauty of this aircraft. True to the pilot reports, the Buccaneer comes into its own as it passes 270 kts. Rock stead all the way through to 550 kts, even at literally ground level. Top speed (with full tank and weapons stores) is about 620 kts, which according to Buccaneer documentation is between 30 to 40 kts faster than was possible in real life. Still, the flight model is convincingly similar to all the pilot accounts on the Buccaneer, and even within the limitations of a digital simulator – gives a very distinctive cockpit experience. Wingtip vortices and engine smoke effects all add to the immersion of flying this model.
Carrier operations are a genuine thrill in the UKMIL Buccaneer. Naturally, the carrier of choice is Flying Stations’ delightful Ark Royal. Launch does not occur in the typical tail-down, nose-gear-off-the-ground way the real aircraft did. Following the aforementioned pattern is even more critical in bringing the Buccaneer aboard the boat. With practice, the plane holds a steady AOA (judged through the IFOLS, since there is no AOA aboard the plane) and coming aboard at 135 to 140 kts is easily done.
This is a fantastic freeware model for both the Buccaneer enthusiast and those curious about it. If expectations around in-depth systems modelling are kept in place, the UKMIL S.2 rewards the pilot with hours of raw, unfiltered enjoyment of low-and-fast flying.
What most captivated me:
- Exterior model detail
- Breadth and quality of paints
- Attention to small, but meaningful details around certain animations
- Fairly convincing (if not perfect) FDE, especially around the low-altitude, high-speed regime
- Good engine sound pack
Let-downs in this model were not major, but I would have preferred
- More accurate pop-up panels
- AOA (important for carrier operations)
- Manual BLC bleed air control (though I assumed it was somehow modelled into the FDE as part of the lift associated with the flaps)
Finally, UKMIL is collecting donations from those who enjoy this and their other models to contribute to the UK’s Help For Heroes Charity – which supports serving wounded members of any UK Armed Services in their path for recovery. For more information, go to UKMIL’s Help for Heroes page here: http://www.justgiving.com/ukmil . Overall, the UKMIL FSX Buccaneer S.2 is a thrilling and beautiful tribute to a true Cold War icon.
The Buccaneer described by Daniel can be downloaded (among other places) from this URL:
by Daniel Lopez