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SimWorks Studios T-37B Tweet: The FSElite Review

T37
Product Information
Developer
SimWorks Studios
Purchase From
SimWorks Studios
Price
€35.99
BUY HERE
Version Reviewed
1.0
Press Copy Provided By
Developer
SimMarket
FSElite's preferred Flight Sim vendor is SimMarket. (Why?)

As per our Community Charter, all of our reviews are free from bias, prejudice and favouritism. Don't forget, each reviewer has their own style and thoughts, although they all abide by the Review Guidelines - something I suggest you read.

Introduction

Manufactured by Cessna, The T-37 “Tweet” was introduced in the USAF inventory in 1957 as a basic primary jet trainer. Along with the T-38 Talon, it has been the backbone of the USAF pilots training programs since its introduction in service. Due for retirement in the 1980’s, it was eventually replaced by the AT-6 Texan II prop aircraft from 2003 onwards.  The T-37 was withdrawn from duty in the USAF in 2009, after a long 52 year career. It is still in service in Colombia, Ecuador and Pakistan. A light attack aircraft, the A-37 Dragonfly, was also derived from the T-37. It was used as a counter-insurgency aircraft and anti-narcotic operations in Central South America until the 1990’s. The aircraft currently represented is a T-37B, introduced in 1959. It bears more powerful engines and better reliability. All T-37A were in the end upgraded to T-37B. A further version with a light ground attack capability, the T-37C was also introduced in 1961 for export markets. This version is currently in development by SimworkStudios (SWS) and is expected for release in 2020.

Installation

The SWS T-37 comes into a simple installer. It requires Prepar3D v4.5 Hotfix 1 or later. The installer will install some fonts and the T-37 Tweet aircraft. By default, the T-37 Tweet is installed in the C:\Users\XXX\Documents\Prepar3D v4 Add-Ons\ but customers can choose any location that suits them. The installer is about 749 Mb in size, and the final product requires 2 Gb of free space on the hard drive. Most of this space is due to texturing work and modeling. The aircraft comes with 5 liveries : one of the Hellenic Air Force and 4 with the USAF representing different liveries worn through its career. There is unfortunately no paint kit available at this time.

Towards the end of the process, the installer will ask you if you want to add shortcuts to the T-37 Manuals on your desktop. The installer will also open a webpage leading to the credits and the instructions on how to setup properly Prepar3D (see below).

Manuals

The above cited page is easily accessible through the “manual” section of the SimworkStudios product, but a PDF version would have been welcome in additions to the two manuals. I personally printed the page as PDF and saved it to my tablet so I could bring it up at anytime, without having to open the browser.

The manuals consist in two separate PDF files. Both are complete copy of a real world T-37 Tweet Checklists (86 pages) and Aircraft Flight Manual (203 pages). I think this can be  hazardous move by the developer, because it can lead some simmers to think – well it comes with the real manuals, it should behave like the real aircraft in any given situation -. However, I have to admit that the aviation literature beast that sleeps in me and that is currently writing this review is extremely pleased to put its hands on a real world, annotated manual of a military aircraft. That being said, depending on the level of immersion you wish, you may skip some readings. However, I dearly recommend those who want to appreciate the aircraft in its depth to take the time to read the flight manual. There are a few key systems such as engine start that require some sequenced button pressing. Hurried simmers can have a look at the tutorial videos posted on YouTube by SWS, and simmers who have the devil chasing them will be able to set a ready for take-off panel state, brought by the Aircraft Configuration Manager (ACM). Despite its complexity, the aircraft is accessible – this is a smart move by SWS.

3D Modeling and Texturing.

There’s one part SWS has certainly not missed is the 3D modelling and texturing. The 3D model is beautiful, and the texturing job is top notch. All animations are smooth, shapes and angles are exactly as they seem on real T-37 pictures. The aircraft uses PBR textures both inside and outside the aircraft. While the exterior textures are without flaws, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with the rendering of some cockpit textures. The instruments are extremely fine and beautiful, but I found some markings are just average. This is especially visible at night, and I wish these markings were as precise as the markings of the instruments, which are however top notch. This means that when going through the checklists or through your cockpit checking flow, sometimes you will lay your eyes on an absolutely beautiful artificial horizon, and sometimes on an average marking. What is frustrating is actually that this is contrasting overall excellent texture work of the rest of the add-on. This however must not make customers forget that it overall remains absolutely stunning.

Whatever the lighting conditions, the aircraft will produce some beautiful reflections, inside and outside. The canopy has visible scratches and uses the A2A rain effects. These are plain beautiful. The details in the cockpit shine best in full lighting, where you can see the instruments frames and needles cast shadows. Performance remains top notch, and you will immediately notice this is no small job considering the amount of needles in this cockpit !

Here’s an example of the cockpit animation, shadows and canopy scratches during a tight turn.

Customers should be aware that the use of dynamic lighting is required for proper operation of the onboard lighting system. Some lower end systems might see a degradation of performance in such cases. The consequence is that during the night, the dynamic lighting will do a great job with the different level of lighting you might want to call. There is also a movable light in the cockpit that can light anything you want. This is dynamic lighting at its best. The exterior lights have also received good care. For example, the rotating beacon is in fact, a fully modeled rotating beacon that also casts its rays on the aircraft. The taxi light and landing light do a great job and add a lot the immersion. When the pilot is lined up and calls for the landing lights, you will see the light ray going out, getting into position (at a slightly delayed rate left and right) and then light up the runway ahead. I felt it as extremely immersive. The job done by SWS is outstanding.

Another cool feature of the aircraft is the way the aircraft manages the pilot’s animation. The ACM lets the user choose between solo and two pilots flight. The removal of the flight instructor also changes the weight and balance of the aircraft. Using the ACM, the simmer can choose on who actually holds the command in the cockpit. You can also have the sim automatically set who has their hands on the controls depending on if you put your point of you at the instructor seat or in the student seat. This way, wherever you choose to seat in the aircraft, you will see your virtual pilot have their hands on the flight controls. Another cool feature is that the instructor heads is looking into the turn.

Here’s a demonstration during a left/right/left bank.

The instruments animations are also great. Seeing all the needles of the altimeter, vertical speed indicator, compasses, engine instruments and so on move at the same time in a very smooth manner is extremely pleasing to the eye.

Systems

Systems are the core of any aircraft add-on, especially to those advertised as advanced.

SWS promises “accessible” realism and “realistic instrument animations & operations”. This might seem contradictory at first, but SWS has it spot on. While the Tweet is a basic training aircraft and is designed to be easy to handle, it is a 1950’s design and the procedure need to be followed carefully. Are you the type of simmer to only fly aircraft by the book? No problem. Not only is the REAL manual provided to you, but the aircraft systems will react correctly to your inputs. You want to drop in the sim and launch a flight without all the hassle of the preflight checklists? No problem either: the Aircraft Configuration Manager, that is brought up using the Shift+1 shortcut, allows you to configure the aircraft in a ready for take-off mode. The startup sequence remain however quite simple. It can take less than 5 minutes to go from cold and start to ready to taxi once you are accustomed to it. SWS provides on YouTube 8 minute tutorial video to help pilots go from cold and dark to take-off: yes, it is really not that hard.

As I mentioned above, the Tweet is a simple aircraft: there are no IRS alignment needed, no complicated navigation systems or even aircraft systems. Be not mistaken though as properly flying the T-37 Tweet will require thinking ahead with thorough flight and navigation planning. There is no GPS, not even a default one, and even using the AN/ARN-154(V) VOR receiver will take some reading time. Remember this is a military aircraft, and this world uses TACAN navigation aids and talks about IFF, not transponder. IFR navigation will send pilots to the old world of VOR, DME and ILS navigation, that many of us are not so accustomed to anymore. The T-37 is a stable aircraft once in flight, yet quite maneuverable.

Pilots will also be able to consult the map that is located on the tablet on the pilot leg. The map is zoomable and movable. The area covered is around Vance AFB in Oklahoma, one of the historical home base of the T-37 Tweet in the USAF.

The map itself is actually a 4096×4096 replaceable texture that is located under [Sim]\SimObjects\Airplanes\SWS_T-37B_Tweet\Texture, but no instructions are provided to newbies on how to do so. Users familiar with texture manipulation will however have no problems proceeding.

The use of the TACAN/VOR receiver is another good example of the level of fidelity of the aircraft. TACAN are similar to VOR navaids, however operating in a different radio frequency range. The TACAN have a far greater range than VOR and are also more precise. The AN/ARN-154(V) receiver that equips the SWS T-37 is able to receive VOR radios, however the TACAN receiver it is not able to tune its frequency fine enough to receive DME stations which frequency end with 0.05 (Y channel). This is an exact replica of the real world receiver, which is an X channel only receiver. The downturn of that is that the core of P3D only simulates TACAN based on VOR. This means you will never see a P3D TACAN with a 300 Nm range.

Another sector where military aviation do things differently is the radio channelization. Most of the NATO military aircraft will not directly dial in the radio frequency they want to use, but will rather select a channel that has the frequency already in memory. The SWS T-37 also reproduces this behavior, and comes with 20 pre-registered channel that will cover the most common frequencies in use at Vance and Sheppard AFB. The corresponding channel and frequencies are readable in clear in the ACM. There is however no possibility to modify the channelization, which would have been a very nice feature for those who wish to fly the T-37 elsewhere in the world.

The IFF (military transponder) is also present in the cockpit. It surprisingly goes up to the Mode 4, which is an advanced IFF key that is loaded by ground crews. No external program or network takes advantage of the various IFF modes in P3D; however it is very good as a trainer for the pilot to take upon the habit of setting their IFF codes, when transiting to more complex aircraft, or even kinetic simulators such as DCS.

Another surprising immersive move is that all the circuit breakers work. They are not dummy switches. Pulling the GEAR IND breaker will lose the landing gear lights. SWS takes upon the fact that no failures are simulated, so a loose breaker will not be programmable.

Overall, the feeling is that all that could be simulated has been. The promises made are kept, minus the simulator engine limitations themselves.

Sounds

There is one characteristic of the Tweet that surpasses all others, and that all those familiar with the Tweet will remember: the NOISE. The J69 engines that equip the T-37 are a license production of the French Marbore II jet engine, that equipped the Fouga Magister aircraft. The ear-piercing, high pitch sound that comes out of the T-37 and the Fouga Magister is unique and very recognizable. The aircraft was consequently quickly dubbed the “Converter”, as an aircraft that converts fuel into noise rather than thrust. In this aspect, prepare to lower the volume of your speakers as soon as you set your sim to an exterior view: the rendition of SWS is on par with the real aircraft. There is just one known glitch about the canopy sound playing several times; this bug has already been identified by the developer and should be corrected at the same time as the T-37C is released.

Handling

Of course, I am not a US fighter pilot and I have not clocked time on the T-37 Tweet. I will not comment on the feeling of the aircraft. However, since the SWS T-37 comes with the real flight manual, it is easy to check out a few figures. As a licensed glider pilot, my first tryout was the glide ratio of the aircraft. The manual says the aircraft loses 5000ft of altitude per 11 Nm with engine windmilling, landing gear, speedbrake and flaps up at a best gliding speed of 125 kts. I am extremely pleased to report that following my own test flight, the glide ratio is exactly as the manual describes in ISA conditions. I then tried a few aerobatics, for the pleasure of the handling of the aircraft. The aircraft is reactive, and seems to be a sane platform for all the basic aerobatic manoeuvres. She holds well during barrel rolls and loops. Inverted flight is almost easy, and the smart use of the elevator trim enables you to remain very stable in this unusual attitude. The aircraft yaws slightly depending on flight control input, and it feels like it is actually flying through air. In the meantime, the controls are very precise. It does not feel on rails at all, and feels more like an horse that goes where you tell it to go, but in its own way. It feels very alive but will require good hand/foot coordination for ultimate precision.Formation flying is easily achieved; just remember to think ahead because the engine thrust changes are slow.

In 2020 with all these nice weather add-ons, there is however one thing that made me a little sad. The aircraft does not seem to be affected by adverse weather conditions. There is no icing buildup and the flying characteristics are unaltered. I was also unable to render the pitot tube unusable due to icing. This is a small area of disappointment, especially in an aircraft that is not fully de-iced and where mission planning always takes in consideration the icing condition avoidance. This bug was reported to the SWS team and is currently being investigated. Let’s just add that in the real world, most operators of the T-37 did not encounter icing very much due to the main bases locations.

I then wanted to try the stall speeds and behavior. Training aircraft will be brought to the edges of their flight envelopes throughout their lifetime more often than most other aircraft. It is paramount that the aircraft is demonstrative, yet not dangerous, and that the pilots know exactly what to expect from their aircraft in this regards. As a basic trainer, the T-37 holds extensive literature regarding this matter, whether it is within the flight manual, or on several videos that can be found in the internet. Unfortunately, due to inherent P3D limitations, when pushed to the edges, the aircraft behaves a bit erratically. Do not be mistaken though; the P3D add-ons that simulate spin and stall close to reality can be counted on one hand. Trying the various stall speeds in level flight and in a turn, the aircraft behaves as it should, reaching the stall angle of attack at the correct speeds. However, when pushing close do the normal flying envelope, the aircraft can behave quite erratically, especially during sustained stall and spins. At some point, I even managed  to regain height during a stall. The aircraft was closer to a paper plane than a 3000 lbs metal bird. Considering the aircraft is intended for basic training, I consider this a drawback. However, this need to be put into perspective. Is the T-37 a correct simulation of figures that can be found in the flight manual? Yes it is. Does the T-37 reacts correctly when pushed to the edges? No, it does not. Can SWS be held accountable? Probably not. The erratic aerodynamics is a  direct P3D limitation. The developer has clearly stated that the aircraft was developed within the P3D SDK. While claiming this, it is however to be noted that SWS are currently working on an improvement to the flight dynamics with an external partner. This could definitely be a game changer later on, especially since SWS are currently working with the objective of retrofitting to the original T-37B some of the upgrades and improvements that will make their way to the latter aircraft.

Performance

The T-37B has performed extremely well on my system. In fact, I barely noticed any impact at all on the framerate on my system. Lower-end PC might encounter stutters during night time flying due to the extensive use of dynamic lighting ; as for daytime flights, performance should not be a problem on most PCs.

Value

The SWS Tweet costs €35.99. In my opinion, given the amount of work that was put in, it is a fair price. However, I understand that some simmers who do not know the Tweet will find it of limited interest. If not for the aircraft itself, I feel the immersion and representation of the Tweet is worth the asked price. That being said, the aircraft might be of good interest virtual air forces and squadrons, because it brings an immersive military training aircraft to a simulator that has plentiful of sceneries, navaids and overall training environments. The paintkit will be released when the upcoming T-37C is released, and will enable painting for both aircraft. It could give a great opportunity to virtual air forces or virtual aerobatic teams to create their own dedicated scheme for this aircraft.

As I said previously, the T-37 is a basic trainer. It has no complicated flight management system, no GPS, it is a simple aircraft by design. Pushed to the extreme, the aircraft shows the limitations of P3D, but what add-on does not? TACAN simulation is not native to the P3D engine, neither are really complex military operations with multiple channelization, IFF mode 1,2 and 4 etc. Yet, SWS chose to take the time to correctly replicate the switches and as much as they could about these items. They may not seem a lot for the casual simmer, but anybody that has ever been close to US or NATO military operations will fully appreciate the ability to replicate all the checklists and procedures, even if it remains a trainer aircraft. The aircraft looks greats, flies great and sounds great. The immersion led by the product is top notch.

Overall Summary
This carefully crafted bird has successfully united the world of casual simmers and more serious pilots. It is enjoyable to fly and has enough versatility to content old school IFR flyers and aerobatic stuntmen. The €35.99 may seem steep for the casual simmers, but military aviation enthusiasts will love the Tweet, especially when the TacPack compatible T-37C is released.
Likes
Dislikes
  • Some cockpit textures are average.
  • Pricing is a bit high for casual simmers.
  • No failures on a training aircraft
  • No possibility of programming your own channelization.
  • Stall and spin behavior is erratic

Where are scores?

After listening to your feedback, we have decided that from February 5th 2020, we will no longer implement review scores. We will continue to provide high-quality reviews via our written, video and imagery to help you make an informed decision about a product. You can read more about it on our Review Guidelines Page.

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Tags : ReviewSimwork StudiosT-37B
Guillaume

The author Guillaume

Guillaume can be found with either his head in the sky or on his legs running on the trails. He's a licensed glider and ultralight pilot and former Air France cabin crew along with 25 years of simming under his belt. He spends his nights reading and learning aircraft manuals and building his own home cockpit.
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