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DCS Training: Radar Modes

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Ladies, gents and those of a non-binary gender persuasion,

This coming Monday July 29th at 2230BST, I will be hosting the first of my After-hours DCS Training Sessions, starting with Radar Modes, to give you guys a better understanding of what they are for, when to use them and what limitations they have. 

Primarily for F-14, F-15 & F/A-18 though some of content will be applicable to MiG-29, Su27/33, J-11 and M2000c and to a lesser extent the F-5.

I will create a specific mission for this task which I send to FT and ask him very politely if you would mind loading to our DCS server for hosting for the occasion.

I will endeavor to record the session for upload to youtube for those wanting but unable to attend to benefit.

What you need to do before you start is at the very least be familiar your particular key mappings/cockpit switchology for (and assign if necessary)

  • RWS (Range While Search) Mode (F-15C & F/A18C)
  • TWS/LTWS (Track While Scan/Latent Track While Scan) Mode (F-15C & F/A18C)
  • STT (Single Target Track) Mode - often noted as lock target
  • PAL (Pilot Automatic Lock) Mode (F-14 only)
  • Pilot Lock On Mode/Boresight (F-14 only)
  • VSL (Vertical Acquisition) Modes


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Thanks for the heads up.I will make sure my hair will look perfect for the camera?

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Im looking forward to it Fen, but I'm looking like a nervous Don Knotts right now thinking about the camera. Doh...

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I will pop along Tom, just to make the other guys feel good about themselves ?

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Ok gents, first thanks for attending.

Second, for some reason the plan to record the session for eventual upload did not go to plan; tech issues, got to do some more figuring out with shadowplay and VR to get the format and sound working properly.

Third, we only managed to cover the Beyond Visual Range (BVR) aspects of radar use - in hindsight, I was perhaps a little optimistic of covering all those options in an hour, but no great loss, we'll cover the Within Visual Range (WVR)/Air Combat Manoeuvering (ACM)  modes next time.

To summarise, we looked at:

  • RWS (Range While Search) Mode
  • TWS/LTWS (Track While Scan/Latent Track While Scan) Mode
  • STT (Single Target Track) Mode

If you have any further questions or require clarifications, then please put them in this thread. I will address them as promptly as I can.

Lastly, I would welcome any feedback you guys have; ultimately these sessions are designed to help you - if you aren't learning something then then I'm doing something wrong, so please say what I can do to improve the situation.

Cheers guys.




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As a visual aid as to what the Bar search pattern looks like:




Note that, depending on the aircraft radar, that 1 bar search pattern is only 2-3° tall... not very much!

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At the risk of sounding dense, I would like to go over which mode to select at what range again please Tom. Also how to interpret the various symbols on each radar screen and how to “lock on” . Other than that I have things nailed ! ?

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Ok Mick.

It's very situation dependant.

RWS (Range While Search) Mode

  • Has longest detection range
  • Has widest/tallest search areas available to the radar
  • Only directly provides bearing & range to a contact (altitude can be worked out roughly by antenna elevation but that's more an intermediate level skill)
  • Cannot ID contacts as friendly/unknown/hostile (in F-14)
  • Cannot generate a track so target aspect/heading unknown
  • Cannot be used to launch/guide weapons

Best situation to use: Cruisin' , looking for something interesting. (Generally not a good idea to be in midst dogfight... but never say never!)


TWS (Track While Scan) Mode

  • Has shorter detection range than RWS
  • Search areas available to the radar are more limited so as to maintain a contact update of under 2 seconds (needed for tracking functionality)
  • Provides bearing, range & now altitude to a contact
  • Can generate a track of contact(s) so target aspect/heading now is known
  • Can ID contacts as friendly/unknown/hostile
  • Can track multiple targets whilst maintaining scan of surrounding area to improve Situational Awareness (SA)
  • Can be used to simultaneous launch/guide multiple Fox-3 type (Active Radar Homing (ARH); AIM-54 Phoenix, AIM-120 AMRAAM and R-77) weapons
  • Cannot guide Fox-1 type (Semi-Active Radar Homing (SARH); AIM-7 Sparrow, Matra Super 530 and R-27R/ER) weapons 

Best situations to use:

  1. Found something interesting, could be bad guys, let's find out!
  2. Is bad guys! Let's engage Beyond Visual Range (BVR) with multiple badass boom-sticks!


STT (Single Target Track) Mode

  • Has similar range restriction as TWS
  • Used to lock the radar antenna to Track a Single Target - hence Single Target Track (STT)
  • Cannot track multiple targets simultaneously
  • Cannot maintain scan of surrounding area to improve Situational Awareness (SA) during track of target
  • Can be used to launch guide all A2A weapon types, however...
  •  Primarily designed to guide Fox-1 type (Semi-Active Radar Homing (SARH); AIM-7 Sparrow, Matra Super 530 and R-27R/ER) weapons

Best situations to use:

  1. Run out of Phoenixes! Bad guys still inbound! Pick the most dangerous and lock him up for a Sparrow shot!
  2. Approaching a furball at BVR distance and want to help my mates out without accidentally shooting one of them down.
  3. Want to target a specific bogey for a BVR Phoenix shot to avoid my wingman and I shooting two missiles at the same target


In the F-14 all these BVR modes have to be asked for from your RIO; if you have a breather in back then ask him nicely over TS; if Jester is back there then you request the various modes via his Menu.

For those flying the single seater a/c, you will have the means to choose these yourself as pilot.


As for symbology (F-14 specific): 

Unknown _images/3.png Unknown sensor track in RWS, TWS and STT modes.
Hostile _images/4.png Track in TWS and STT modes designated as hostile by RIO.
Friend _images/5.png Track in TWS and STT modes designated as friendly by RIO.
Home base _images/15.png Waypoint representing home base, carrier or airfield.
Waypoint _images/16.png WCS navigational waypoint, supplanted by number indicating waypoint 1, 2 or 3.


Altitude Numerics _images/34.png When altitude numerics are selected for display a number on the left side of the tracks indicate track altitude to nearest ten thousands of feet. The number four as an examples indicate an altitude between 35,000 and 45,000 feet. Available on radar and data link tracks.
Firing Order Numerics _images/35.png
Indicates AIM-54 phoenix target prioritization (1 to 6) in WCS when in the TWS mode. Next missile launch will target track with number 1 and remove the number from that track to advance the other 5 track numbers one step to prepare for next launch.
Mandatory attack selection on a target forces the WCS to always include that target in the prioritization.
Next launch selection automatically sets hooked target as number one in the prioritization queue.
Time-to-Impact (TTI) _images/47.png After AIM-54 launch the firing order number on a track is replaced with the TTI or time-to-impact indication, showing WCS calculated time until missile intercepts the target track. When the AIM-54 active command is sent the TTI numbers flash to indicate this.
Velocity Vector _images/36.png
Velocity vector emanating from center dot of tracks when velocity vector display is selected.
Vector direction represents track heading and length represents track speed so that the max indicated speed (1 800 knots) is 1.5 inches on the TID.
In TID ground stabilized mode the vector direction represents track true heading and the vector length represents track ground speed.
In TID aircraft stabilized and attack modes the vector direction represents track relative heading (to own aircraft) and the vector length represents track speed relative to own aircraft.
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Wow Tom , that was excellent mate, thanks. I will print that lot off and study as well as using it for ref live . Brilliant !

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Side note from the U.S. side of the pond: I recall that the Navy calls home base "Home Plate" as in home plate on a baseball field.  The symbol used in the chart above is very much like a baseball home plate marker on any baseball field.

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