DCS is a realistic study sim. This means that all systems, flight models, weapon systems, physics etc. are modelled as close to reality as possible (within the limitations of computer simulations and budgets of course).
But this also leads to a steeper learning curve compared to most other sims out there. Thankfully, not all planes are equally complex, and some lend themselves better for beginners.
This guide should help you pick your first DCS jet!
1. Free Options
The Su-25T “Frogfoot” is a Russian cold war ground pounder or Close Air Support fighter jet. It truly has proven itself to be a workhorse for the Russians and is still used today.
The reason its at the top of this list is because it is free. That means that new pilots can try it and get a feel for what DCS is all about without having to commit to buying anything. Think of it as a free demo.
If it wasn’t free, I am not sure I would recommend the Frogfoot as someone’s first DCS jet though. It’s a ground pounder and while that means you are less likely to get shot down, it is also a bit harder to hit ground targets in DCS.
But hey, its free! So just fly around in it for a few hours, do the tutorials and see if you are hooked. I highly recommend a high-end VR headset (pick one of these if you don’t already own one) because that really takes the game to the next level. A joystick is indispensable and here is a buying guide to help you pick.
2. Flaming Cliffs 3
This should be, in my opinion, your first purchase in DCS. Flaming Cliffs (FC) comes with a number of jets like the F-15C, A-10A, Su-27, Su-33, MiG-29A, MiG-29S and Su-25.
Ease – The FC planes are not full fidelity which means you don’t have to press half a dozen buttons to get things done. But they are still far far more complex than what you get in something like War Thunder. Think of it as a bridge between arcady flight sims and the full-fidelity DCS modules like the Hornet, Viper, Blackshark, Warthog etc. You can read more about these flight model differences here.
Cost – The FC bundle of planes is cheaper than most single full fidelity modules. And because of their lack of full systems modelling, they are a lot easier to learn as well.
Variety – Another advantage of starting with FC is that you get to try both US and Russian planes. The F-15C Eagle will give you a taste of what you can expect from the Hornet or Viper. While the Su-33 is the most capable Russian fighter in the game.
3. First full fidelity module
If you are already hooked to DCS or are the adventurous type who wants to dive straight into the deep end of the pool, then you might want to try out some of these modules.
F/A-18C Hornet – The Hornet is a very capable jet that can hold its own both in air to air combat and when pounding ground targets with its arsenal of advanced smart munitions. It is also quite well developed with many systems already implemented. I definitely would recommend it over any of the other Early Access planes. You can also do carrier ops which just adds to the fun!
Mirage M-2000C – The Mirage is a super fun, light fighter. It has a lot of content added for it already unlike many of the newer modules that are still in early access. It is not as multirole as the Hornet, but it has more content. It is also a bit easier to learn.
I recommend starting with the Huey since it’s the most beginner friendly. You can read my full article on picking helos here. Helos are a bit harder to fly than fighter jets so I don’t recommend them as your first pick though. Unless you are a serious rotor head.