My ongoing love affair with the Ka-50

When I first got into flight sims I was super invested in the A-10C. I bought the HOTAS Warthog stick and throttle, the trackIR5, and I dove face first into books about A-10 pilots. I didn't even particularly care about military jargon, now I "needed" to learn it because that was the name of the game. It wasn't about the Call of Duty power fantasy of blowing shit up, but more about figuring out something opaquely difficult and becoming somewhat good at it.

From the guys I fly with now, it seems like simming attracts technically oriented people. Not necessarily programmers, but we have medical students and mechanics and lawyers and dudes who in general seem naturally inclined to figure out how a system works and learning how to navigate it and apply it.

What surprised me was how much I loved moving my focus to the Ka-50 Black Shark. Maybe it's the Airwolf fan in me but something about a single-pilot attack helo triggers some attraction in me that I can't really explain. I've been flying the shark for so long now it's easily eclipsed my time in the A-10. It's a little counterintuitive; The A-10C is much more effective than the Ka-50, demonstrably. It's more survivable, it's easier to fly, it is better armed, and it has vastly superior avionics. The Ka-50 and its systems are poorly documented; You can't just jump on Amazon and buy a book or two about how it flies in combat. It's also one of the ugliest flying machines I've ever seen.

But I love it so much. I love crashing it again and again, messing up landings, gung ho Rambo style rocket attack runs (always fun, always fails). I love the moments where you absolutely nail the approach under cover, pop up under radar and get to plop missiles right in the middle of an air defense battery before they know you're in town. I love the panicked dives and canyon runs to avoid SAMs.

I'm sure people go on joyrides in the A-10, but taking a Ka-50 street level at high speeds is super exciting. Sometimes I load up a mission just to fly through downtown Batumi and practise circle strafes. In combat the Ka-50 is a stealth assassin. Off duty it's a drift racer. Sometimes it's hard to balance the two because it's always tempting to go crazy.

There's also something cool about how.. Shitty the Ka-50 is. The avionics sort of kind of talk to one another, but not always. Flight paths programmed on the moving map don't show up in the actual navigation system the autopilot uses. The GPS runs on different scales than NATO units so trading target data in co-op requires extra manual labor. For all its automation (a very aggressive autopilot indeed) there is constant demand of manual adjustment. Sure, you're asking the autopilot to automatically turn you to face your target, but the actual launch path of your missiles is offset to the left and right based on which hardpoint is going to launch so.. Prepare to fight the autopilot when you're lining up the reticle. When you do something you need to keep the consequences in mind, or you'll be asking a whole lot of questions mid flight you really don't have time for.

It's like the Ka-50 is filled with arguments. Every choice has a caveat, typically a big one. It is awesome, and I can't fully explain why.

No other games really do this. It's a big shame so few get to try this and get into it for real because it is rewarding like you wouldn't believe.