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DCS 2.5: new playground for Virtual Air Shows

DCS 2.5, still in beta, offers those who play the simulation a whole new view of the Caucasus map. For virtual air shows, a category very much alive in the sim, this is a whole new world to explore.

Introduced as the “World’s most spectacular FREE TO PLAY combat game!” DCS or Digital Combat Simulator, reaches version 2.5 with a big jump in graphic quality, while, at least on my system, things continue to move at a fast pace. Some will say it’s better now, faster, and while I can not confirm or deny, for me it runs rather well, both playing alone and the times I tried it online.

This new version may well attract new players, although the continued discussion about how difficult the sim is will continue to keep some away, I believe. It’s a pity, because DCS is a great simulation, made better with the 2.5 version. There are still bugs to iron out — this is a beta, still, on March 7, when I write this note — but they will, hopefully, vanish from the final version. Anyways, DCS 2.5 is a fantastic experience… if you like simulations. There is a learning curve, and the challenge of flying an airplane is always there, unless you go for the game mode present. Which, in fact, takes away part of the fun, from my perspective. But it is there if you want to “play the game”.

This free base program (you can call it a game if you want, I rather not) gives you a Caucaus map to explore, and two planes: a TF-51 (Mustang trainer with no guns) and a Su-25 “Frogfoot”. With those two aircraft you can both fly on your own or online, play the training missions and others available, and even create your own missions or campaign, using a full editor. Not bad for the price, and enough to keep you playing for decades — really — if you’re into flight sims. And you do not need to spend a dime. But you can, and there are some interesting options, about which I will probably write more later.

Here and now I want to explore one perspective of DCS 2.5 that may interest you: virtual air shows. The new scenery will, no doubt, offer some of the most fantastic background images for the virtual air shows happening this year. In fact, this is going to be the debut of version 2.5 when it comes to virtual air shows. One of those virtual air shows happens March 31, and may be a good opportunity to experience the excitement of seeing different teams showing their experience through some six hours of the Virtual Burning Lake Air Show.

The Virtual Burning Lake Air Show will be streamed on Virtual Air Show twitch, sharing with the audience the aerobatic displays from the a series of teams, including Virtual Horsemen, Virtual Black Diamond Jet Team, Virtual Patrouille Suisse, Virtual PC-21 Solo Display and Virtual PC-7 Team, Virtual Vultures Jet Team, Sawa’s solo display and Frecce Tricolori Virtuali, Patrouille de France by The Jetesons and others. The organizers say the show will… put the lake on fire.

The Virtual Burning Lake Air Show is one of four annual events associated with the Virtual Airshows Group, the others being the Virtual Festival of Aerobatic Teams (VFAT), the Virtual United Air Festival (VUAF), Virtual Beach Blast. The Virtual Airshows Group is, one can read on the group’s website, “a reformed alliance of established Virtual Airshows. Our aim is to unite virtual airshows from around the world and provide a common forum of likeminded individuals to improve and maintain the standard of virtual aerobatic events.”

While virtual airshows can be created in other flight simulations, DCS seems to have all the attributes to make this type of event work rather well. The number of videos available on YouTube suggests the interest, passion and time some have devoted to this type of exploration of DCS, in a demonstration of the potential of the sim for other things than war. Because of my interest for the “peace time” operations allowed in DCS, I decided to ask the organizers of the Virtual Burning Lake Air Show a few questions.

We exchanged messages on Facebook, and I asked how much of a change the new scenery represents for the show. The answer pointed to the fact that some of the bugs in the current beta version may affect some aspects of the show, and “issues with aliasing or memory leak, for example, can penalize our show in terms of lag or such”. I was also told that changes mean “every single team that is using a custom mod to perform needs to update them to follow the 2.5 standard, so with the new terrain data the show site is a bit different” and, “a bit more difficult to fly cause of the collision with trees aspect”. Yes, the new trees “planted” everywhere are a problem, especially around the lake where the Virtual Burning Lake Air Show takes place.

This article about Virtual Air Shows would not have happened, if it wasn’t for my son Miguel sending me a link to a video about the PoAF Alpha Jet airplane, which recently was taken of service. Having photographed the Asas de Portugal aerobatic display in Alpha Jet for some time, having also photographed the original Asas de Portugal when they used the Cessna T-37 Tweet, I searched the web to check if there was a version of the Alpha Jet for DCS. Although there were some plans for one that looked good, the project never went ahead, as far as I know. One thing leads to another and I found videos about virtual air shows, and started watching them. Although I was aware that virtual air shows exist, it was now that I felt it made sense to write about them. After all, I’ve spent part of my life writing about and photographing air shows and aircraft in the real world!

For this article I’ve used images from the real world I’ve photographed at different airshows, along with images from DCS shot in the area where the air show will happen. They are not of the virtual teams or any event, but will give you an idea of what to expect, something the video published here explains better. I hope this note will make you take some time on the 31st of March to watch the Virtual Burning Lake Air Show. I will be there watching!



Outpost 2 is a “bridge” between the world of simulation and the real world, and the Universe around us. Sometimes, there will be no frontiers between reality and simulation. It’s an advanced scouting position from where, sometimes, a new view reveals hidden details.

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Jose Antunes

I am a writer and photographer based on the West coast of continental Europe, a place to see the Sun die on the Sea, every day.