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Aircraft Review: VSKYLABS F-19 Stealth Fighter for X-Plane 12


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Aircraft Review: VSKYLABS F-19 Stealth Fighter for X-Plane 12

 

By Alan Ashforth


This is a review of the new VSKYLABS F-19, which along with X-Plane 12, is rapidly receiving updates. As such, this article will offer a snapshot of the F-19 in its current state (version 1.5 at the time of writing), and X-Plane 12 Beta 9, as of 29th October 2022.

 

Introduction

The actual F-19 story can be traced back to the 1980s when numerous news articles began circulating about a supposedly secret stealth aircraft called the “F-19”. At the time, the USAF had taken delivery of the F-117 Stealth Fighter, and when one of these highly secretive aircraft crashed in California in 1986, it only helped stir the media interest. To this date, the F-19 has never been officially acknowledged, but this fact has done nothing to deter the public’s interest. In fact, quite the opposite has happened, as the F-19 has been referenced numerous times over the years, most notably in the highly popular computer game, “F-19 Stealth Fighter” by Microprose, released in 1989. The F-19 model represented here by VSKYLABS, continues this trend of “what might be”, as much of what this model is based on is pure speculation.  However, that is where a lot of the excitement comes into play…so let’s have a look at some of the F-19’s statistics.  

 

Performance figures provided by VSKYLABS are of an aircraft that can reach a maximum speed of Mach 1.2, an altitude of 53,000ft and a range of 1,400 miles. Not too shabby in the slightest!  The aircraft carries internal missiles which include two AIM-9X air-to-air (AA), and AGM-158A air-to-ground cruise missiles.

 

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Download & Installation
Once purchased and downloaded from the store, the VSKYLABS F-19 (unzipped) weighs in at 341MB. Contained within the folder, you will find a concise 14-page manual, which according to the developer, will be updated into a comprehensive manual. There is also an install guide complete with a warning that the model just purchased is an “Early Access Aircraft”, due in part to X-Plane 12’s rapid beta progression.   

 

Exterior
There’s no denying it, VSKYLAB’s F-19 is a remarkable-looking fighter aircraft, with obvious stealth attributes on offer. From its pointed nose, angled front cockpit, concealed engines (from frontal radar returns) four-engine cooling ducts on the fuselage top (to reduce heat signature), rounded wings and inward tilted twin ruder/ vertical stabilizers (complete with built-in speed brakes), this is a design modelled entirely to go unnoticed by enemy radar.  

 

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Other notable features of the aircraft include the in-flight refuelling (IFR) cover on the top centre of the fuselage (not yet implemented in X-Plane 12), tailhook, brake chute and the fully internal missile weapons bay.

 

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Interior
VSKYLABS has modelled the interior of the F-19 to be quite snug, but in a way that fully embraces a design from the 1980s. It is equipped with mostly steam gauges, plus a few additions from the nineties, those being a Garmin G530 and a few EFIS units. 

 

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Looking around, it is clear to see that the developer has put a lot of time and effort into making the interior as authentic as possible. Everything is modelled to an extremely high standard, including a nicely detailed seat and canopy surround, a nice feature of which, are the numerous marks and scratches on the glass. A feature I especially enjoyed (which is due in part to how X-Plane 12 works), was the wonderful rain effects on the cockpit glass, incredibly atmospheric and great fun to boot! Due to the layout of the F-19’s cockpit, learning where everything is located, is relatively simple. Yes, it takes a bit of time, but that’s half the charm of flying an aircraft such as this type. However, once done, everything falls into place and the experience is highly enjoyable. 

 

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Flying & Operation
When starting the F-19 from cold and dark, the battery is only used to test the fire warning and annunciators. Set your L/R engine shutoffs to the SET (UP position) and then turn on the APU switch; a green light will appear within 30 seconds. Hold down the right engine starter until 30% is achieved and the engine should then self-idle up to 65% RPM. To start the left engine, you simply follow the same procedure. If you happen to have AviTab installed, you can read the Normal Procedures list for engine startup.    

 

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With our GPS, radios and other equipment checked, we can now progress to the takeoff phase. 


The advice given by VSKYLABS in the manual, recommends rotating at 130kts, with takeoff being achieved at between 150-170kts, depending on aircraft weight. At full throttle, afterburners (AB) will be activated, so if flying below 250kts, these can be switched off. For CAT launches, the procedure is almost the same, but with slightly more emphasis on having your afterburners ready, and don’t forget the launch bar switch on the lower front left panel. 


One of the first things you’ll notice about the F-19 when in the air, is just how stable an aircraft it is. This is particularly evident in the FCS Dogfight mode, as you’ll be able to undertake some rather impressive manoeuvres without even a hint of complaint. Of course, if you want to add some additional challenge to your flying, you can always turn off the artificial stabilizers, which has the effect of making the aircraft a lot more sensitive. It’s fun, just be prepared for the odd…shock! The F-19, whilst not as fast as the likes of the non-stealthy F-15/16/18, climbs very well and achieves its desired altitude in almost no time at all.

 

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All the weapons carried by the F-19 are stored internally in which to maintain the aircraft’s stealth properties. These include the two sidewinders stowed in the left and right fuselage bays and the larger air-to-ground missiles (AGM), located in the central fuselage compartment. 


Whilst X-Plane isn’t labelled as a combat flight simulator as such, it’s still possible to have a great deal of fun in it, especially with an aircraft like the VSKYLABS F-19. To operate the weapons, you first turn on the Master arm switch and then choose either AA or AG (your chosen selection will then be lit up). In this mode, all relevant weapon bays will be opened, and the radar will show any “enemy” aircraft in range.

 

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For this example, I set up an AI MiG 27 as the enemy aircraft, and by using the keyboard command “Next Target”, I was able to select the MiG on the radar (turns red). As well as displaying the target, the radar also provides information regarding the speed and altitude of the enemy, in relation to your position. With the MiG locked and within around ten miles, I released a single sidewinder at the target. It looks like someone is going to have a long walk home! 

 

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Unfortunately, when it comes to using the air-to-ground missiles in X-Plane 12, there is no means currently of being able to lock them onto either a ship or ground target. This doesn’t mean you can’t use them; you just can’t watch them hit anything. You can however observe a test flight of the AGM-158A during its launch phase, which to be honest, looks great, especially when the wings unfold, and the rocket motor kicks in!  As well as selecting the desired ordinance, there is also a button for both chaff and flare countermeasures, but sadly during my testing, I couldn’t get the chaffs to work (this will no doubt be fixed in later updates). 

 

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When navigating, cruising, or using the autopilot in the VSKYLABS F-19, it is recommended to use the Tactical mode of the FCS. This provides a smoother ride with less angle of attack (AOA), thus making the aircraft safer to fly when at low altitudes. However, one thing to remember, is that the autopilot will switch off if your speed drops below 170kts, so be aware of this, especially during landings. 
When flying at night, the F-19 looks fantastic, as not only are you presented with an easy-to-read cockpit panel, but you are also provided with some exceptionally bright landing lights. When combined with the new NAV and APR autopilot settings, night flights and carrier landings are a lot more enjoyable and safer. 

 

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Due to the F-19’s poor forward visibility, both takeoffs and landings can be quite challenging at times, so you’ll have to move around the cockpit to get an idea of where you’re situated in relation to the airport or carrier. If you’re still having difficulty, then I recommend controlling the aircraft from (dare I say it), the external view. Whilst this isn’t as realistic, it does help with the frustration.  

 

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Navigating in the F-19 works well during all phases of flight, as you can use either the sat-nav/autopilot or VOR/heading modes to complete objectives. When you factor in the new ILS making runway landings easier, plus the option of having either air-to-air combat or missile tests, the whole experience is just incredibly fun. 

 

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Sounds
No aircraft add-on is complete without a decent soundset, so you’ll be glad to know that the F-19 is well-catered for in this department. Not only are you provided with some truly incredible engine effects (FMOD), but this must be the first aircraft where I could hear myself breathing through the oxygen mask. There are also sounds for the closing and opening of the canopy, plus many other audio alerts, which when added all together, make for an audiophile’s dream. 

 

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Conclusion
As many of you will know, I have a fondness for military aircraft and as such, the VSKYLABS F-19 ticks many boxes in this regard. It’s an aircraft which is exceptionally well-modelled both inside and out (even in this early access stage). When you consider that fact, I think it’s safe to say that the model reviewed here will only get better, which is high praise indeed. 


The flight characteristics are both forgiving and challenging at the same time, plus the sound is to die for (wait till you listen to those flypasts). VSKYLABS are renowned for their modelling skills and the F-19 is no exception to the rule. One must also mention the model’s cost, which for an aircraft of this type, I think is more than acceptable. So, if like me you enjoy fast military jets, modelled to an exceedingly high standard, then VSKYLABS F-19 should definitely be on your radar! 

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The VSKYLABS F-19 Stealth Fighter for X-Plane 12 is available from the X-Plane.Org Store here:

 

VSKYLABS F-19 Stealth Fighter

Priced at US$34.95

 

Project's Main Features:

  • Project Highlights (Early Access Version):
  • Early access version! A new aircraft for X-Plane v12.00 beta.
  • Advanced concept aircraft simulation, including detailed, fully functional 3-d cockpit environment with realistic, working systems.
  • Extensive, professional real-world experience and knowledge of jet-fighters design, systems, performance, handling and operation were involved in the making of the VSKYLABS F-19.
  • Designed for X-Plane 12 cutting-edge flight model environment and presents superb flight dynamics with presumably authentic performance and flight handling characteristics for the hypothetical F-19 aircraft.
  • Developed for VR: Development was tailored specifically for VR and optimized for 2D usage.
  • Engineered and designed as a genuine, default X-Plane 12 aircraft. The VSKYLABS projects are practically show-casing X-Plane, as they are stretching X-Plane default features, systems and flight model to its limits without any dependencies on complementary plugins or software...delivering a very robust simulation model, having maximum compatibility with the ever-evolving X-Plane flight simulator.
  • Comprehensive FMOD sounds for 'As Real As It Gets' experience!
  • Perfect challenge for beginner and expert pilots: Provides a very wide flight envelope with comfortable control from ~140 knots to Mach 1.1.
  • Autoupdater based on the SkunkCrafts autoupdater - all updates are being pushed smoothly without the need to re-download the entire base package (base package will be updated every once in a while, to minimize the gap).
  • Highly responsive VSKYLABS support forums: VSKYLABS offers continuous professional support, from all aircraft related aspects (operating and flying) to X-Plane technical support.
  • The project is under constant maintenance and development.


Requirements

X-Plane 12 - Not compatible with X-Plane 11
Windows, Mac, or Linux
4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended 
Current version: 1.0 (October 21st, 2022)

 

Review by Alan Ashforth

3rd Oct 2022

Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews

 

Review System Specifications: 

Windows 11, Intel i7 10,700 Processor, 32GB RAM, 2TB SSD, GeForce RTX™ 2070

 

(Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved

 

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