Introducing LINUX Air Combat
Updated 24Feb2024

Lockheed P38 and Vought F4u 
Fig. 1:  Lockheed P38 “Lightning” and  Vought F4u “Corsair” fighters pass by one another almost head-on. Clean, simple graphics contribute to glassy-smooth flight and high frame rates, even on inexpensive computers.

Linux Air Combat is a free, open-source combat flight simulator for the LINUX community. It is available as freeware with source code for those that want to compile it, or as a precompiled "AppImage", compatible with all of the most popular desktop versions of LINUX, for those that just want to run it.

This is an introduction to Linux Air Combat for beginners, based on version 9.61 (scheduled for release in Mar2024), representing 9 years of development work. This is now the world's leading free, open-source combat flight simulator. Prior versions changed rapidly as features and aircraft were added. During the past two years, LINUX Air Combat (or “LAC”) has completed its primary design and coding phase, and although installation options, aircraft artwork, sound effects, additional missions, and a few other details are likely to continue making incremental improvements, all future versions are expected to remain true to the basic outlines in this introductory review.

NOTE: A previous version of this Review was used as the script for a series of YouTube video clips back in 2020, so you can WATCH the action as it was narrated. Although that version is now outdated, all of the fundamentals are unchanged. CLICK HERE to go to the online video PlayList containing all seven of those "classic" clips in sequence! (You can always examine our online changelog page HERE to see a comprehensive list of the changes made available in all of the published versions.)

Although it has been possible to fly other free combat flight simulators on LINUX, only a very few were written specifically for LINUX with no need for emulation of Microsoft Windows. Among the high-performing few written specifically for LINUX, LAC is unique because it runs nicely even on modest PCs, and because the source code is very clean, well organized, and is built entirely on a foundation of well-known, popular, universally supported, open-source components that are available on virtually every popular distribution of LINUX. Furthermore, the latest version of LAC is now available in a precompiled, self-extracting, universal binary executable format bundled with all prerequisite libraries according to the well-known "AppImage" conventions, making it immediately compatible with almost all contemporary, popular desktop LINUX distros and eliminating any need to compile, link, or download prerequisites!

As a result of the many download options and clean source code, although most people won’t ever need to compile it, LAC is so easy to compile that those that want to do so are almost always successful. Even those that have never compiled anything before are reporting success within an hour or two, and it can form the basis of study for youngsters that want to grow into a career as a computer programmer developing high performance, graphically intense, network-centric, multi-user games.

LAC is a product of the people that publish the well-known “AskMisterWizard.com” web site, and comprehensive documentation about LAC is prominent there. LAC’s primary web page includes sections on downloading, installing, configuring, and even compiling LAC for those that want to customize it. Because all of those subjects are so well covered on the web site, associated forums, and within several comprehensive YouTube playlists, we won’t be repeating them here (but from time to time we will make reference to one of those video clips to help you find the associated details).

Hardware Requirements

First, let’s talk about compatibility: LAC’s hardware demands are modest. Any PC built since about 2007 and powerful enough to run any modern version of Microsoft’s Windows operating system ought to be able to run Linux Air Combat on any of the popular LINUX desktop distributions.

For example, it runs well on the tiny, low-cost, "Raspberry Pi Model 4B"computer, and also on ten year-old Intel “Core II Duo” or later processors with a minimum of 1 Gigabyte of RAM.

LAC’s graphics have deliberately been kept simple, so it can be run without a gaming-class video card. Users have reported excellent results even on old laptop computers equipped only with basic, low-cost “Intel” motherboard graphics. In those situations, you will want to configure LAC to operate in one of its low-resolution modes (640x480, 1024x768, 1280x720, etc.) and at one of the three lower graphic detail levels from the six levels available. (This just means that you won’t see as many trees, reflections, or shadows as those that have spent an extra $80.00 for their video card.)

On the other hand, if your PC is equipped with even a modest nVidia or ATI accelerated graphics card, you will be able to crank the resolution and video quality up as high as your card’s OpenGL drivers allow, and a lot more details will become visible.

LAC users will also want to hear LAC’s sound effects, and they will want to speak to other LAC users across the Internet. Any sound card that’s compatible with LINUX ought to work out just fine.  Complete your LAC sound setup with a basic headset and microphone.

View from the cockpit
Fig. 2. A view from the cockpit during low-level, online flight trailing a wingman in a Lockheed P38 Lightning. Blue cockpit instrument text refers to "BlueTeam" mission components. Red text would be used if one or more RedTeam objects were selected. Note that the circular RADAR display has temporarily switched to a yellow background. This is LAC's warning that hostile heavy bombers have been detected beyond the currently selected RADAR display range. When alerted of this danger, the player can easily zoom the RADAR range out sufficiently to see the threat, whereupon the RADAR display's background color will revert to its normal green setting. This image was captured from LAC running on a Raspberry Pi in late 2020.

Most of the images in this review show LAC running on a 500 U.S. dollar PC with a modest nVidia graphic card at the highest level of detail, and at 1080P resolution (that’s 1920x1080 pixels).

Simulated Flight Controls

LINUX Air Combat is intended for use with a joystick as your primary flight control tool, but it does work pretty well even if you don’t have a joystick. In that case, you can just use your PC’s mouse or a console-style USB Game Controller to simulate an airplane’s joystick to control ailerons, elevators, and weapons.

Joystick and Numeric Keypad controlsLAC's standard keyboard layoutLAC Mouse controls USB Game Controller mapped for use with LACLAC on Steam Deck
Fig. 3. LAC’s keyboard and flight controls, including optional provision for control with mouse or console-style game controller. LAC is adaptable to any popular game control option. The recommended control setup is based on a standard keyboard, numeric keypad, and the popular, low-cost "Logitech Extreme 3d Pro" joystick, but many people fly with just mouse and keyboard. LAC is also available on Valve Corporation's new "Steam Deck" hardware, with controls mapped as shown above. It is entirely possible to fly LAC without ever needing access to a computer-styled keyboard!

LAC’s controls are based on a standard PC keyboard, numeric keypad, and the popular, low-cost “Logitech Extreme 3d Pro” joystick. It’s very easy to adapt this to some other joystick or to fly it with just a keyboard and mouse.

The standard layout of LAC’s controls is very well thought out and intuitive. All of the most commonly and most urgently used flight and view controls are sensibly located on the keyboard, mouse or joystick, and numeric keypad for the easiest, quickest, and most intuitive access. Joystick buttons are physically arranged in commonsense pairs for natural use to raise/lower flaps, raise/lower nose trim, left/right swing of rudder trim, view zoom in/out, primary/secondary weapon activation, and speed slow/speedup. Even the physical position of those button pairs makes good sense: Where button pairs are located above and below one another, the higher of the two raises or increases the associated effect while the lower of the two decreases it. Where button pairs are beside one another, they either have an obvious left/right effect on the flight path, or the one on the right increases the associated effect while the one on the left diminishes it.

The keyboard buttons of a standard PC keyboard and numeric keypad are also laid out in sensible groups. For example, LAC’s six “zoom” functions (three pairs for View Zoom In/Out, Map Zoom In/out, and Radar Zoom In/Out) are all mapped to the same area, using the only square cluster of six buttons available on a standard keyboard. All three of the resulting button pairs use the upper button to zoom the associated function “in”, and the lower button to zoom “out”. (For extra convenience, the very important "Zoom RADAR In/Out" and "Zoom View In/Out" keys can be duplicated on the numeric keypad too.)

LAC’s multi-channel voice radio system allows very powerful communication between online players. It’s rich set of options are easily controlled by 23 keyboard buttons. On a standard setup, these are all physically and sensibly located adjacent one another, in a big group along the top of the keyboard.

LAC’s remaining control functions are generally mapped to alphabetic keyboard keys, where the first letter of the well-known aerodynamic function name is used to designate the appropriate key. For example, “G” is used to toggle landing gear, “I” is used to toggle “Identify Friend or Foe”, “R” is used to activate or de-activate RADAR,  "B" toggles brakes, etc.

Whether you are using a joystick, console-style game controller, or a mouse, you can easily change all of these layout arrangements. You can reconfigure each of your available keyboard keys, buttons, and axis motions to control any of 45 powerful flight functions and 23 different voice communication functions, so you will be able to set up all of your controls to your liking. Players lacking a joystick can configure their mouse for primary flight control in either of two modes: "Relative" Motion Mode (where maneuvers cease as soon as mouse motion ceases) or "Position Mode" (where maneuvers continue until the mouse position is returned to its starting-point).

Feature Set Summary

LINUX Air Combat includes all of the basic features expected by modern fans of the flight simulation genre.

A sample of LAC's graphics   LAC V8p50 Cockpit in flight
Figs. 4 and 5.  Pilot's view of LAC’s graphics with all of the options turned on during two online combat segments in different missions. Note the large amount of flight and tactical information displayed on the cockpit instruments (especially in the second of the two images, which comes from a later version of LAC). Each of these pictures includes a square, colored "frame" around one of the visible aircraft, indicating that the corresponding plane has been designated as the player's current target. Red frames and red text describe RedTeam aircraft or mission objects while blue frames and blue text describe BlueTeam aircraft or mission objects. (Click images for a more detailed view.).

Although the graphics and sound effects are somewhat sparse by today’s standards, they are adequate to the task, and certainly good enough to inspire an active imagination into a credible flight session (and the sensation of flight is unusually smooth).

68 flight, view, and communication functions allow computer pilots to immerse themselves in the joy and mirth of simulated flight with breathtaking relish. Overall, LAC’s features compare favorably with Windows-based flight sims from the genre’s classic period, like “Combat Flight Simulator 2”, or “Air Warrior III”, or “Aces High I”, or “Warbirds”.

One of the most important considerations of any computer-based flight simulator has to do with the “View System”, or the way the computer pilot is able to turn his virtual head to look forward, backward, left, right, up, or down. By default, LAC is preconfigured to support the classic, industry-standard “Air Warrior” view system, allowing the pilot to switch instantly between those views using appropriate, geometrically arranged keys based on the numeric keypad. This is the same kind of view system that has been in common use by most flight sims for the past 20 years, but it can be completely reconfigured for pilots that are accustomed to some other layout. For example, it is trivial to change that default view system to rely on the joystick’s “hat switch” instead.

Furthermore, because LAC is intended as a realistic simulator and not as a mere game, it has no game-specific magic spells or special features to memorize: It’s all just history and science. If you already have a good understanding of the aerodynamic and air combat sciences, you won’t even need to read the instructions once you have your controls mapped to your liking!

External view over an airfield
Fig. 6. Flying low, in external view mode, above a friendly airfield, with two allied aircraft on the runway. External views are always available at the tap of the keyboard's "x" button.

Available Aircraft

LAC now models 54 aircraft from World War II. CLICK HERE to open a new browser tab or window and cycle through a comprehensive series of web pages about each of those airplanes one at a time, arranged alphabetically by country and manufacturer.

The flight model details may not be scientifically perfect, but top speeds, climb rates, roll rates, turning rates, durability, and the lethality of the respective weapons are all credible, and typically fall reasonably within the ranges described in available historic and anecdotal records. Even secondary flight effects like rudder-induced roll, torque roll, and low-speed control fade are included in LAC's increasingly realistic flight model. Since late 2023, accelerated stalls result in realistic bucking and shaking of the player's aircraft, accompanied with dramatic wind shear and gusting noises as the normally smooth flow of air over wings and fuselage breaks down, under heavy stresses, into swirls and eddies. 

Some compromises were made in the interests of game play and fun, but sim pilots willing to use a little imagination will easily fantasize a real experience. The developers report that historic accuracy is best when flying at "normal" speeds and at low and medium altitudes. Flight performance becomes a little less accurate as altitudes increase beyond 20,000 feet.  LAC's modeling of stalls and takeoff acceleration is less accurate than flight at normal, controlled speeds, but all primary aspects of flight physics are included even in those calculations.

As in classic real-world aircraft, LAC’s flight controls generally begin to feel heavy at extremely high speed, with some aircraft suffering more than others from this “compressibility” effect. For example, the early-war P38F Lightning becomes almost uncontrollable in a high-speed dive, but the late-war P38L version can recover from that condition by activating the same simulated dive flap that was used in the actual aircraft.

Flight speeds tend to increase with altitude as thinner air (and correspondingly diminished air resistance) interacts with various types of superchargers able to scoop enough air into greedy engines to sustain full power up to their respective height limits. On the other hand, the thinner air at high altitudes degrades climb rates. Eventually, above well-researched high altitude limits, even the aircraft with the best superchargers begin to wheeze and gasp for air, resulting in diminished overall performance.

Some of the simulated aircraft are equipped with Speed Brakes, or Dive Brakes that can help them to suddenly decelerate (or at least to maintain reasonable control at extreme speeds). Some are equipped with War Emergency Power settings that are capable of extracting the utmost power from their engines for a few minutes (at the cost of massive fuel consumption and the likely need for an overnight overhaul by the ground crew afterward). Some are equipped with primitive, single-level flaps, while others are blessed with several levels of flaps. Some are equipped with tail gunners, and some absolutely bristle with defensive guns automatically firing as needed toward airborne threats in all directions. Some have fearsome, forward-firing cannons that can shred opponents, while others are armed only with small, lightweight machine guns that demand sustained aiming and shooting before significant damage can be inflicted. And exactly as one might expect, all of the aircraft that can lug heavy bombs or rockets suffer diminished performance until they can shed this extra weight. All of these differences are historically based, according to the best available records and anecdotal reports.

LAC Cockpit
Fig. 7a. LAC’s Cockpit instruments provide a comprehensive summary of aircraft and tactical status, and a careful review of the instruments reveals a great deal of information. The player's online name is "Lincoln". He is flying on the RedTeam, and has not yet claimed any air-to-air victories during this session. He has selected a BlueTeam player named "NIXON" as his current "TARGET". As a result, other cockpit instruments use blue text to display additional details revealing NIXON's altitude and name. RADAR range is zoomed all the way in to 7 kilometers, and two RADAR dots are displayed very near the center of the RADAR display, indicating two other players in close proximity. Note that one of those RADAR dots is red and the other is blue according to their team affiliation, but the blue dot is closest, and has a bright white center, indicating that it represents the current "TARGET".  The player's throttle is fully advanced and the bright white color of the full throttle bar indicates activation of "WAR EMERGENCY POWER". The player's True Airspeed is 227 MPH,  and his altitude of 2158 feet is quite close to the altitude of his target (2148 feet). The player's aircraft is carrying 58% of its maximum fuel capacity, and has suffered 6% damage. Flaps are retracted, but the speed brake is activated. The "Mumble" VOIP radio is tuned to the channel for "REALM01M3Red", corresponding with the RedTeam of Mission 3 within Realm01. The player has been holding down his "MISSIONCASTING key for 500 video screen updates, so anything he has been saying into his Mumble microphone during that entire time period (probably spanning about 8.3 seconds at 60 FPS) has been transmitted to all members of both participating teams. The most recent VOIP message was heard from the player named "ADAMS". The "ROUTER PANEL" shows "06" in blue text, indicating that the most recently received network packet came in from BlueTeam player 06, who is connected via the network and who is NOT a "bot". The player's RedTeam HQ airfield has not suffered any battle damage.

New cockpit layout since Mar2024
Fig 7b. New cockpit layout, available as a configurable, run-time option since Mar2024 as described HERE.

Cockpit Instruments

LAC’s cockpit is completely standardized and is always displayed according to one of two available choices. No matter what kind of airplane you choose to fly, your cockpit choice will look exactly the same for the selected mission. Under our legacy cockpit layout, LAC’s instruments look more like a modern, digital, “glass cockpit” than a World War II warbird. That choice has helped to make it easier to learn LAC than other sims that move instruments around to match each simulated aircraft. It also contributes to LAC’s remarkably high frame rate and the silky-smooth sensation of flight. (A YouTube video is available from within the main LAC playlist that provides a comprehensive “tour” of the cockpit  according to that legacy arrangement. If you choose the more graphically appealing "World War II" arrangement, you will benefit from THIS new cockpit orientation video.
Network Integration

LAC’s communication and network features are arguably among the very best of all online flight sims, even by today’s standards.

LAC is all about multi-player, Internet-based missions. Of course, that will require an Internet connection. LAC’s network bandwidth demands are modest, too. Even if you rely on an old 56Kbps, modem-based connection, you ought to be able to participate in the 10-player online missions without experiencing undue “lag” or “warps”.

Router Panel DetailFig. 8. Router Panel Detail.

One of LAC’s most important innovations is the “Network Router Panel” that’s visible near the upper right corner of the cockpit instrument panel in all of the online missions. Like all multiplayer network flight sims, LAC players send and receive frequent “network telemetry packets” to one another in order to locate themselves relative to one another and to the simulated geography. On the Network Router Panel, two rows of ten little light bulbs blink on and off to represent incoming telemetry or voip packets from the ten players that can participate in each of those missions. The server relays incoming packets from nearby participants more frequently than from distant participants. Accordingly, a quick glance at the Network Router Panel can reveal the number of active mission participants, as well as their relative distance from the player, because the lights corresponding with nearby participants will blink much faster than distant ones. When any of them begins to speak on the simulated, inter-player voice radio, his corresponding “Voice” light bulb illuminates. Exactly as you might expect, these lights show numbers from "1" to "10", and are colored red or blue according to team affiliation.

Interplayer Communication
LAC's Morse Code Radio
During online missions, LAC's most basic tool for interplayer communication is its powerful "Morse Code Radio". By pressing the Caps Lock keyboard key, players toggle their keyboards back and forth between the usual flight mode and "Morse Code Radio" mode. When the Morse Code radio is active, printable keystroke characters are transmitted, received, and displayed, one by one, across a separate little cockpit panel that illuminates when in use, where every player in the mission can see them. 

Most online flight sims have something like this, permitting players to send text messages to one another, but in a small gesture illustrating the care and quality with which LAC has been groomed, LAC goes farther, accompanying every transmitted character with the authentic beeps and tones of real Morse Code! If Morse Code radio traffic ever suffers from congestion or deliberate interference, convenient function keys allow automatic muting and unmuting of the current sender, or of the entire BlueTeam or of the entire RedTeam, allowing clear reception of the remaining information.
Mumble connected with LAC server
For voice communication, the LAC community relies on the free, open-source, well-known “Mumble” Voice-over-IP (or “VOIP”) application. As a companion or "helper" program, Mumble's use is optional, but it is highly recommended.

Linux Air Combat and Mumble work hand-in-hand. Once Mumble is installed, LAC will find and use it automatically, integrating it into the cockpit and missions. Cockpit panels and remappable keyboard controls work in cooperation with a powerful, free Mumble Server available online at LinuxAirCombat.com. The combination is remarkably powerful, making it easy to meet other LAC fans and to arrange cooperative or competitive interaction in any of the many online missions. The LAC Mumble Server even includes dynamic, web-based tutorial help focused on each of its rich set of channels dedicated to support, mission teamwork, or just chatting with other flight sim fans. That online, Mumble-based help will even display a convenient map of LAC's keyboard, numeric keypad, and joystick controls for reference during missions!

When flying in one of the multiplayer missions, the interaction with Mumble becomes even more powerful, because LAC’s cockpit panel illustrates Mumble actions as if it were a real aircraft radio, revealing all transmission, reception, and channel-changing activities of everybody in the mission. LAC commands Mumble to switch channels automatically, as the user changes missions or teams. During missions, players that earn a good reputation can even be "promoted" by their peers, allowing them to take mission-wide command of the team's use of Mumble channels and ensuring that strategies are appropriately communicated among team members, but kept private from the opposition.

Under the leadership of a promoted player, this team-wide integration with Mumble is really impressive and amazing to experience. The first time your entire team simultaneously switches to an obscure Mumble channel for a more private conversation away from the eager ears of the enemy, makes private plans and then, exactly two minutes later, simultaneously and automatically switches, all together, back to their team channel, you get an idea of the care and detail that went into LAC's network player management.

Players that have been promoted into team leadership can issue team-wide commands to switch everybody to an obscure, private channel, to the team's "MissionCast" channel (where all conversations are public to both teams), to the team's "TeamCast" channel (conveniently isolated from the other team), or even to the system-wide "Root" channel (where new users, looking for action, might be recruited). All of these team-wide, channel-switching commands are transmitted over the Morse Code radio, and only players that have been promoted can issue them. LAC's promotion system is elegantly simple: No player can promote himself, but any player can promote any team-mate just by transmitting a specially formatted Morse Code Radio message. Once a player is promoted, his promotion remains until he is killed or leaves the mission, giving team-mates an extra incentive to protect him (and giving his opponents extra motivation to target him).

This partnership between Linux Air Combat and Mumble even simulates radio chatter with a “forward observer”whose automated voice rewards players for tuning to proper mission channels with periodic espionage updates on enemy airbase damage and maintenance activity!

Upon entry into one of the online, multi-player missions, LAC checks to see if Mumble has been installed and if the player has already chosen an appropriate "CommunityHandle" by which he will be identified. Comprehensive, automated advisory messages are displayed to help new users get these items configured as appropriate.


Online Documentation

LAC is very well documented online, and the best of that online documentation is fully integrated into the sim. High-quality online resources are available in response to a single mouse click from LAC's main menu, immediately invoking the user's designated web browser and accessing specially optimized web pages for configuration and flight training.

LAC's lively online forums are loaded with help and associated links. LAC's main web page is easily found in response to an Internet search, or it can be directly located through the prominent links at the top of the well-known AskMisterWizard.com website. Hundreds of YouTube video clips instruct beginners in every aspect of downloading, compiling, installing, configuring, and flying LAC.
Select Your
Fig 10. Selecting one of LAC's 54 aircraft. Clicking the "CHECK FOR MULTIMEDIA" button will launch the player's browser and play one or more related, documentary online video clips describing the aircraft in its historic context.

Selecting one of LAC's 54 available aircraft is like touring a warbirds museum: essential characteristics are displayed in tabular form while a rotating 3d image dominates the display. For each aircraft, a prominent "CHECK FOR MULTIMEDIA" button leads to at least two corresponding YouTube documentary video clips. Players can spend hours and hours enjoying all of the aircraft in this virtual warbirds museum mode. Then, seconds after enjoying an online video clip about a particular aircraft, the player can immediately jump directly into its cockpit and take it into combat!

Getting Started

  LAC Missions
Fig. 11. LAC’s Menus allow easy configuration and selection among a wide variety of missions. New players will want to optimize the "SETUP OPTIONS" for best performance on their hardware and then exercise the four very simple "TUTORIAL" missions before joining the online community. All of the missions in the lower group support live, human interaction between multiple, online players. The online missions are MUCH more advanced and MUCH more fun than the tutorial missions, even when the player is flying "solo". "NETWORK BATTLE 03" is the simplest of the online missions, and is the best choice for new online users. "PEABODY'S MISSION" is the most advanced online mission. When an online mission is populated with two or more live ("Sentient") human players coordinating their activities through voice communication, the fun compounds.

After downloading, installing, and configuring LAC as described on the AskMisterWizard.com web site, most players will want to start out with the offline “Tutorial” missions. There are four of these, focusing on “Flight Basics”, “Air-to-Ground” tactics, “Fighter” tactics, and “Free Flight”.

Those offline tutorial missions allow you to practice gunnery against a variety of “bot” opponents. Don’t expect the bots to be very intelligent, though…. They are very basic. Nevertheless, those offline missions can get you ready for the real fun of Linux Air Combat: the two-player “Head to Head” mission, or one of the three classic online, server-based, multiplayer missions, or one of the newer, even more advanced, multiplayer missions from LAC's growing mission library.


Flying online, on the wing of a friendly F6F
Fig. 12. Flying online, on the wing of a friendly Grumman F6F “Hellcat”.

Online, Multiplayer Missions

As soon as you start one of the online, multi-player missions through the free server, you will know that you’re doing something more sophisticated! Scripted radio dialog narrates the tactical situation into your headset, informing you of your team affiliation, mission ID number, and radio channels in use by your team-mates. If any of the ten possible human players is flying in the same mission with you, you’ll see corresponding blinking lights on your cockpit's Network Router panel.


Lining up to strafe a ground target
Fig. 13. Lining up to strafe an enemy bomber on the opposing HQ airfield.

There are three types of "classic" online missions and a growing group of newer, more sophisticated missions. For our purposes in this review, we will focus on the three classic missions. All three are similar in that they all obey 12 specific rules which are automatically enforced and  carefully contrived to create an environment of realistic conflicts and tactics. Everything just makes sense. In fact, the environment makes so much intuitive sense that you probably won’t even need to remember these twelve rules, but here they are anyway:

Twelve Uniform Characteristics of LAC’s online, multi-user missions:

1  of 12: Players are divided into two teams, known as “Red” and “Blue”, respectively. Cockpit icons and text representing mission assets or players are colored red or blue to match.

2  of 12: Each team has several air bases: One “HQ” airbase that’s quite close to the opposition, a second airbase that’s a little farther away, a third airbase that’s still farther out, a fourth airbase for bombers that’s about 100 kilometers distant, and a fifth airbase, about 150 kilometers away, that is uniquely able to load the massive B29 heavy bomber with its full bomb load. BlueTeam airfields are on the West side of the world, while RedTeam airfields are on the East.

3  of 12: The objective is to destroy the enemy HQ airbase with some combination of bombs, rockets, cannons, and/or machine guns, while protecting your own HQ airbase

4  of 12: HQ airbases defend themselves with powerful ground-based anti-aircraft guns. A battleship is moored alongside each naval HQ airbase, and its guns contribute to area defense. Destruction of the HQ airbase is not complete until any accompanying battleship is destroyed too.

 
Battleship
Fig. 14. Battleships are moored near HQ airfields in naval missions.


5  of 12: As HQ air bases are damaged, their defensive guns become less and less effective until they fail entirely.

6  of 12: All aircraft are equipped with RADAR receivers that illuminate the positions of Blue team members with big blue dots, and illuminate the positions of Red team members with big red dots. Players flying in complex terrain can hide from opposing RADAR by descending deep down into canyons and valleys.

RADAR
Fig.15. Cockpit RADAR shows online BlueTeam players with big blue dots, and RedTeam players with big red dots. Heavy bombers are indicated by large, diamond-shaped icons in the appropriate color. A white dot marks the selected "TARGET" The player's position is fixed at the center of the RADAR display, where the crosshairs meet. The illustrated RADAR range of 200KM can be zoomed in and out by pressing the "HOME" and "END" keys of the main keyboard, or by pressing the "+" and "-" keys of the numeric keypad.

7  of 12: RADAR updates come frequently from undamaged HQ airfields, but if an HQ airbase becomes heavily damaged, those updates cease, and members flying for the corresponding team go RADAR “blind”.

8  of 12: Undamaged HQ airbases are able to fully support and maintain all 54 types of available aircraft. However, if a team suffers heavy damage on their HQ airbase, late-model aircraft suffer diminished service support, forcing team members to choose from one of the less powerful, early-war aircraft or to take their chances in a late-war plane that isn’t properly fueled or armed. Accordingly, players can deny their opponents access to the best planes by damaging their HQ airfield.

9  of 12: As long as the HQ airfield isn’t too damaged, players that run low on fuel, run low on ammo, or suffer aircraft damage can return and land there to get refueled, re-armed, and repaired. However, that re-arming, refueling, and repair activity ceases entirely if the HQ airfield is heavily damaged. If the HQ airbase is too damaged to offer these services, the player is forced to land at one of his more remote airfields.

10 of 12: Damaged airfields are automatically repaired by surviving ground personnel. Repairs are accelerated if nearby airspace is dominated by friendly aircraft. Repairs are decelerated if nearby airspace is dominated by hostile aircraft.

11 of 12: Because the HQ airfields are dangerously close to the opposition, heavy bombers that take off from the HQ airfield are only loaded with 50% of their maximum bomb load. Bombers that take off from their secondary airfield are loaded with 75% of their maximum bomb load. Only the airfields that are farthest removed from the battlefront are equipped to load heavy bombers with 100% of their maximum bomb load.

12 of 12: As in the real wars of history, LAC's combat is enriched with a healthy dose of random luck. Sometimes an attack or a defensive move will benefit from unpredictable surprises. These are completely random, not favoring either side. Over the long run, everybody benefits equally from these random surprises, but in the short run, they guarantee that nobody can really be completely confident of the current situation.

Peabody's Mission Menu   Net Mission 03 with Active Player List
Figs. 16 and 17.  Two mission menu screens from LAC's growing mission library. Each of LAC's missions is individually described with its own menu including a mission briefing, mission notes, and clickable buttons allowing selection among any of three starting positions within the mission terrain. A prominent "CHECK FOR MULTIMEDIA" button will activate the player's web browser and load a page with video clips about the chosen mission. The airplane that the player has chosen to fly is also illustrated, slowly spinning for optimal examination in a small animation near the left edge. Additionally, all of the online missions feature clickable buttons allowing selection of "TEAM" and "REALM", and they also display the names of any other online players that are currently active, with "BlueTeam" players listed in a column of blue text, and with "RedTeam" players listed in a column of red text. (In Fig 16, this mission has no online players currently active in the selected realm. In Fig 17, the RedTeam is populated with two Replay Blokes and two Sentient players, and the BlueTeam is populated with three Replay Blokes and two Sentients.)

Three Types of "Classic" Online Missions


As I said, the three "classic" online, multiplayer missions are all fairly similar. However, there are some differences as follows:


MissionNetworkBattle01
Fig. 18. Network Battle 01.

Network Battle 01 takes place in a beautiful island/seascape terrain. A nearby battleship fortifies base anti-aircraft defenses. Upon entry into the mission, all players are nearly out of fuel. Consequently, they are immediately forced to land, obtain fuel, and then take off. This ensures that much of the activity takes place at low altitudes, and players just entering the battle tend to be vulnerable to “vulchers” that may be loitering above, waiting to pounce. After each sortie, players land for repairs and to replenish fuel and ammunition. If they bring their aircraft home without damage and with fuel reserves, they don't need to wait very long. However, players that get themselves killed or bring back a heavily damaged airplane must re-start with no fuel or ammo, and must wait helplessly on the ground, at risk of attack, while their ground crews struggle to get them ready to go again.

Network Battle 01 is among the more sophisticated and challenging of the three mission types. You may find experienced LAC players here, and the competition can be brutal!


MissionNetworkBattle02
Fig. 19. Network Battle 02.

Network Battle 02 takes place in a desert terrain, far away from oceans and battleships. The terrain includes dramatic, deep canyons, valleys, and cliffs where airfield-based RADAR cannot penetrate. Accordingly, popular tactics within this mission include low-level attacks that are invisible to RADAR. As with Network Battle 01, upon entry into the mission, all players are nearly out of fuel. As a result, they are forced to land, obtain fuel, and then take off, ensuring that much of the activity takes place at low altitudes. Players just entering the battle tend to be vulnerable to “vulchers” that may be loitering above, waiting to pounce. When players land for repairs and to replenish fuel and ammunition, they are especially vulnerable. If they bring their aircraft home without damage and with fuel reserves, they don't need to wait very long. However, players that get themselves killed or bring back a heavily damaged airplane must re-start with no fuel or ammo, and must wait helplessly on the ground, at risk of attack, while their ground crews struggle to get them ready to go again.

Network Battle 02's HQ airfield defenses are a little less vigorous than NetworkBattle 01, because victory requires only destruction of the runway facilities without also destroying a battleship. Accordingly, these encounters can be a little less time-consuming. However, the complex terrain allows low-level tactics beneath RADAR level, so tactics can become a lot more devious and it's always necessary to keep a wary eye open for opponents coming in too low for RADAR detection. Fortunately, pilots can ask HQ radio controllers to send them a report, by voice radio, revealing the last known position of designated aircraft. Those reports, based on ground observer activity, aren't as timely or as accurate as RADAR, but they can be very useful in the location of opponents that cannot be tracked by any other means.


MissionNetworkBattle03
Fig. 20. Network Battle 03.

Network Battle 03 takes place in the same beautiful island/seascape terrain that is used in Network Battle 01, but all players enter the mission with a full tank of fuel. Accordingly, nobody is forced to land for fuel, and altitudes tend to be higher. Vulching opportunities are far less frequent in this battle. Furthermore, combat damage isn't quite so quick to disable critical flight functions. Refueling, re-arming, and repair activities are always very quick in this mission, and  so pilots don't suffer the perilous delays that characterize the other two missions when returning with low fuel or heavy damage. Accordingly, this mission tends to be a little easier and less frustrating for beginners.

Finding Opponents and Allies In Flight

LAC's online, multiplayer missions can become frantic and complex, and new players may become overwhelmed with the rapid flow of information. Military strategists have long recognized this aspect of real battles, referring to it as the "fog of war".

Approaching, finding, and identifying opponents and allies in flight can be a great challenge as LAC's "fog of war" develops. To help you with this during flight, you can designate one element of your mission (for example, another aircraft or an enemy airfield's RADAR tower) as your current "TARGET". Once you've done that, your RADAR receiver and cockpit instruments will display additional information about the designated item. YouTube features another LAC-related playlist that includes a nice segment entitled “Linux Air Combat Target Selection Tutorial”. That clip will help you with additional details about using your cockpit RADAR, target selection tools, your Network Router Panel, automated voice-radio direction prompts, and Mumble-based radio communication to find opponents and allies in flight. In general, the process works sensibly and intuitively, relying on all of those tools and common sense exactly as one might expect, but you will get better at it with practice!

Seven Categories of Online Tactics

Online tactics tend to fall naturally into seven different categories. In the following little sections, this review will mention those categories and the challenges associated with each:

Tactic 1 of 7: Fighter Versus Fighter

It can be great fun just to jump into a nimble fighter plane and skitter off into the skies looking for skilled enemy fighters that want to “dance”. LAC’s Fighter-versus-fighter encounters constitute the pure essence of the sim, and this is the kind of exercise that most players find liberating and exciting. Strategically within LAC, eliminating an enemy fighter doesn’t contribute directly to winning the battle; no points are won and nobody is crowned an ace for five victories, but the elimination of an enemy fighter plane DOES take the pressure away from your team-mates in bombers or otherwise attacking enemy headquarters. It can be especially useful to shoot down an enemy fighter that has climbed to a threatening altitude, because otherwise he would be likely to shoot down one or more of your bombers.

Tactic 2 of 7: Bombing

LAC’s suite of bomber aircraft includes heavy bombers, medium bombers, and dive bombers from world war II. All are capable of inflicting significant damage on an enemy airfield, and all must be considered an important threat if they are targeting your own HQ airfield. For example, a single B17, B24, or B29 can wipe out most of an airfield’s defenses in a single pass if it is skilfully flown and arrives over target, at an ideal bombing altitude, with its full complement of bombs.

However, this is difficult because it requires a long, heavily-laden flight from the most distant airfields, and the bomber is slow to climb or maneuver whenever it is so laden. Incoming fighters fly much faster than most bombers, and they can be highly motivated to overtake and shoot at them. If a bomber is damaged during the flight, it will probably be unable to hold its altitude unless it discards some of those heavy bombs. Accordingly, it will usually require several bombers or several distinct bombing runs from a single bomber to destroy the enemy airfield.  And as soon as a bomber takes off on an attack run, enemy fighters are likely to be alerted by their RADAR equipment and may launch deadly opposition.

To counter these enemy fighters, LAC’s bombers are all equipped with defensive guns that automatically shoot at opposing aircraft within gunnery range. In general, bigger bombers have more of these guns, but they need them because they are bigger targets, and they can’t maneuver very well to avoid incoming bullets. The smallest bombers typically have only a tail gunner with just one or two light-weight, rear-firing weapons. Accordingly, they aren’t as effective at shooting down opposing fighters, and must rely on a combination of defensive, turning maneuvers and their defensive auto-guns. Furthermore, fighters that damage bombers also weaken those defensive guns and slow the bomber down, so a damaged bomber is less able to defend itself and becomes a more attractive target for opposing fighters.

It can be difficult to hit a target with a World War II era bomb. The most accurate method is to dive almost straight down toward the target, waiting until the last possible moment before releasing the weapon and then pulling violently upward to avoid the resulting blast or crashing into the ground. To facilitate this kind of pinpoint bomb aiming, LAC includes several dive bombers that were specially built with dive brakes to help them control their speed in the downward plunge, giving the pilot more time to aim. (It’s possible to make an effective dive bombing run in other types of aircraft, but without dive brakes the pilot has a lot less time to aim and runs a much higher risk of crashing).  Dive bombing can be developed into a very accurate, very effective skill. However, because dive bombing brings pilots down to low altitudes, it is a very risky business if the airfield's main anti-aircraft guns are still at full strength!

Another bomb aiming method is known as “level bombing”, and it can be done from higher, safer altitudes beyond the 10,000 foot reach of airfield gunners. LAC provides special tools to aid in this exercise, emulating what came to be known as a “Norden Bombsight” in World War II. Bomber pilots can switch into “Map Mode” by pressing the “M” key on their keyboard, whereupon their display is replaced with a scrolling map of the terrain below. The player’s aircraft is always located at the exact center of this map, and a moving little “pipper” marks the spot on the ground where a bomb would be likely to hit, at the end of its fall sometime in the future, if it were to be released immediately. Accordingly, heavy bomber pilots that approach their targets can switch into this Map Mode and then just use that “Continuously Computed Impact Point” pipper to fly to the proper location before dropping all of their bombs. The impact point prediction is only accurate when flying within carefully calibrated speed and altitude limits, as described in text that is displayed at the bottom of the map when the Norden Bombsight is active. 

Norden Bomb Sight View
Fig. 21. LAC’s “Map Mode” emulates World War II’s famous “Norden Bombsight”. Two small circular “pippers” are fundamental to its use. The white pipper, always located in the center of the scrolling map, indicates the player’s position. The green pipper is always projected ahead of the current flight path, at a distance that predicts approximately where a bomb would land if dropped immediately.

Because battleships are moored perpendicular to runways in the classic naval missions, it’s usually best to launch bombing attacks from two different directions; with one thrust along the length of the runway and a second, perpindicular thrust. Due to their increased accuracy, dive bombers are especially useful when attacking battleships. However, it’s usually best to keep your dive bombers away from HQ airfields until after high-altitude, level bombers have weakened the opposing anti-aircraft guns.

Tactic 3 of 7: Bomber Escort

Fighters can protect the bombers on their own team by flying nearby, above them. From that position, they can usually see enemy fighters that try to attack. This is especially effective if the enemy fighters try to climb up into the bomber formation from their own airfield below, because the climb tends to slow them down, allowing the higher-altitude, defending fighters to dive on them from optimal positions with high-speed, slashing passes, zooming back up to high safety afterward. Bomber pilots like to see fighters accompanying them in this way, and history shows that escorted bombers were far more effective.

However, both bombers and nearby fighters can suffer terribly if opposing fighters somehow get to a higher altitude before making their attack runs. Accordingly, it’s important for escorting fighters to keep a wary eye on the skies above, and to make every attempt to draw or drive such attackers away from the bombers.

Tactic 4 of 7: Bomber Intercept

When one or more incoming bombers target your HQ airfield, a “Bomber Intercept” mission is appropriate. In this circumstance, you take off in a heavy-hitting airplane that can climb quickly up to the bomber’s altitude, or higher, before the bombers can arrive. Fast-climbing fighter airplanes with powerful guns work best, because at your first opportunity you’ll want to start shooting. Big, lumbering bombers are fairly easy to hit, but they can absorb a lot of punishment before they are destroyed. Fortunately, bombers are usually so heavily loaded that even a little bit of damage can cause them to begin to lose altitude, which in turn can force them to discard some of their bombs before they can get to their target location. Every time you can weaken a bomber like this, you are giving your HQ airfield a better chance to prevail.

However, all of this is vastly complicated by the defensive “autogunners” with which bombers are equipped. Those guns can be deadly! It is especially dangerous to try to attack a formation of bombers while slowly gaining on them from directly behind, because bomber crews generally put their best-aiming crewmen into the “tail gunner” position, on their heaviest guns. When attacking a self-defending bomber, you can maximize your odds of survival by keeping your speed very high and attacking from unpredictable angles (like diving from straight above, or coming in with a violent, slashing vector from the side). Do not linger within range of their guns; keep moving. It’s a lot safer to make several quick, short, high-speed firing passes than to try to hammer them to death with a single, sustained onslaught. It’s also a good idea to attack with a wingman, so that the opposing gunners are forced to split their firepower.

One airplane deserves special consideration in this context: The German “ME163 Komet” is a tiny, rocket-powered interceptor that was specially built for bomber intercept missions. It’s rocket engine can quickly accelerate it to extreme altitudes and speeds, and its big 30 mm cannon can shred even a heavy American bomber with just 2 or 3 hits. However, this airplane is very challenging because it carries only enough rocket fuel for about 7 minutes of full-power flight, and it carries only enough bullets for about 10 seconds of firing. Accordingly, it has no ammo to waste, and it is really only good at hitting big, fat bombers. Furthermore, this airplane doesn't carry much armor to protect the pilot, it is full of dangerous, explosive rocket fuel, and it requires a very complex, time-consuming process for fueling up. Use it with prudence!

Me163 "Komet"
Fig. 22. The German Me163 Rocket-powered interceptor can be selected for flight. This is the fastest and most innovative aircraft among LAC's offerings, but its amazing performance comes at very high risk.


Tactic 5 of 7: Defensive Combat Air Patrol

Sometimes it makes sense just to circle your own HQ airfield, a few thousand feet up, keeping a wary eye out for incoming opposition. Ideally your altitude will be superior to the attackers, so you can dive on them at high speed and blow them out of the sky. Another option is to circle your own airfield in a heavy bomber, so that your autogunners work in harmony with your HQ ground guns to defend your airfield. Either way, if your own airfield is damaged, the ground personnel tasked with repairs will work with much greater enthusiasm and speed if they know you are dominating the skies above them with your friendly aircraft. When your ground-based repair crews feel this encouragement, your cockpit's airfield status indicator displays "5X" instead of "1X"  to indicate the likely acceleration of repairs to as much as 5 times the normal rate. This can significantly accelerate repair of your HQ airfield after it has been damaged. Sometimes this can turn the tide of the war in your favor!

Tactic  6 of 7: Offensive Combat Air Patrol

One of the most exciting and rewarding activities is to circle above an enemy airfield, watching for airplanes taking off. This is dangerous if the enemy still has active anti-aircraft guns, but not all airfields are so equipped, and even HQ airfields suffer from weak defenses if they are heavily damaged. In these circumstances, you can simply “vulch” the opposition while they are low, slow, and helpless. It is not uncommon to gain several quick victories, one after another, in this circumstance. (Conversely, if you are being vulched, you might consider taking off from a different airfield…) Furthermore, if the enemy airfield below you has suffered damage, their repair crews will be intimidated by your presence while you dominate the area, and they won't attempt to make repairs until after you leave or are driven off.

Mission type 7 of 7: Strafing

After dropping bombs and rockets, your remaining machine guns and cannons can still be used to attack enemy HQ facilities on the ground. This is known as “strafing”, and some aircraft are better at it than others. In particular, fighter airplanes that are cannon-equipped, or that are armed with large numbers of forward-firing machine guns can devastate ground facilities.

The heavily armed North American B25 "Mitchell" medium bomber is especially powerful in this role, as it was in World War II’s Pacific theatre of operations. Strafing an undamaged enemy HQ airfield is extremely dangerous, however! This is best done only after the airfield has been weakened. Strafing is often used to “finish off” the enemy, during the final phases of an attack. It can be very satisfying to shred enemy HQ airfield facilities until a violent explosion and a fanfare of victory music declare your ultimate success!

North American B25 "Mitchell"
Fig. 23. The North American B25 “Mitchell” Medium Bomber can be selected for flight. This aircraft can inflict amazing damage when strafing ships or ground targets.

Quirks, Oversimplifications, and Shortcomings

LAC is not without its quirks. Much of the logic has been deliberately oversimplified in order to maximize frame rate and to make it easy to learn. For example, you cannot see incoming bullets, cannon shells, rockets, or missiles in any of the online, multiplayer missions. In fact, although the invisible bullets coming from human opponents behave as directed by the opposing person, bullets coming from automated bots in bombers or from airfields are really just mathematical rules, like rolls of an imaginary pair of dice. The odds of taking a hit can be diminished by “jinking” or by flying at extreme speeds or from bizarre angles, but you aren’t really dodging bullets with that process; you are just playing the odds versus the sim’s brutally simple risk mathematics.

The Artificial Intelligence used by LAC’s bots is not very sophisticated. You’ll see bots doing stupid things from time to time. You’ll find LAC a lot more satisfying if you keep in mind that the primary focus is online, multi-player, World-War II combat simulation.

LAC’s missions support a maximum of only 10 players. Although that’s more than most other combat flight sims not assessing a monthly fee, whenever more than 10 players are connected to the server, the excess must start another mission. With just a few online missions exposed in the menus, you might think that the entire LAC community would be limited to just a few simultaneous players, but that’s not the case. LAC’s server divides the LAC community into as many as 32 “Realms”, each of which can support several simultaneous missions, each with as many as 10 players. Each of those Realms is completely isolated from the other Realms. This means that the LAC community can grow to support hundreds of simultaneous players through the current server, but every player must choose the single Realm in which he will fly.

Being new, LAC still has some bugs. When you discover one, a polite posting to the "LAC BugTracking forum" will get the attention of the developers and will likely result in a fixed version.

Recent versions of desktop LINUX have sometimes refused to accept any input from LAC's menus. If that happens to you, you can completely bypass LAC's menus with command-line options. From a bash shell, start LAC with the following command line to get help:

lac -help

An even better way to overcome any incompatibilities with LAC's built-in menus is to download and install the new "LacMenuLauncher" utility.  This optional companion program displays a set of simple, text-based menus that duplicate all of the functions of LAC's built-in menus. Further information is available from our Frequently Asked Questions ("FAQ") 66 and 67, available in our online "LacFAQ" page.

The LAC Community

When LAC development started out, it was necessary for all players to compile it. Most potential players found this intimidating, and it limited the growth of the LAC community. Linux Air Combat only achieved binary compatibility with all of the leading desktop LINUX distros in November of 2021. Because interest in World War II combat aviation has as yet been discovered only by a small subset of LINUX users, the LAC community is small, and it is focused on just one server and just Realm "01", to help users find one another within that small community.  The best way to find other players relies on voice communication and setup negotiation through "Mumble". Players wishing to participate online with others are advised to install Mumble and just to hang out in the main Mumble channel at LinuxAirCombat.com until somebody else shows up and says he wants to fly. Better yet, recruit a friend and get him to join in!

If you find that you are the only player in an online arena, the other nine player positions are automatically staffed by bots managed by your own aircraft. The bots will use the best of their limited intelligence to provide interesting targets for your target practice exercises. (As soon as another “Sentient” online player enters your arena, he or she replaces one of the bots.)

Gun Camera Films and Server Missions

Online players can ask the LAC server to record their mission activities for subsequent online replay. This is done by pressing the keyboard’s “C” key to commence camera recording, and pressing “C” again to command the server to stop recording. If the recorded activity turns out to be particularly fun or interesting, the player can send an email to “webmaster@AskMisterWizard.com” to request that it be replayed in one of LAC’s 32 distinct Realms. Once that is done, players can fly within the recorded environment, even re-recording it with additional changes. These are known as "Server Missions". A growing library of these player-generated Server Missions is already available, and the Server admins are pleased to activate them upon receipt of an emailed request. If one of these Server Missions is active while you are flying, your cockpit's Router Panel will display flashing lights to indicate network activity from those "Replay" players exactly as if they were live, sentient humans in active participation. However, to differentiate them from live, "Sentient" players, their names are displayed differently. When one of those "Replay" players is selected as your current target, instead of displaying the name of the sentient human that actually flew the mission when it was being recorded, the name is displayed as "REPLAY01", "REPLAY02", "REPLAY03", etc.

Three Distinct Types of LAC players

Most of our online missions support ten simultaneous players. Among those ten players you might run into any combination of as many as three different types of allied or opposition pilots, known as "Sentients", "Blokes", and "Bots", respectively. Their three distinct roles are:
Special Realms

Among LAC’s 32 distinct Realms, Realm "1" gets special attention. Within that Realm, the LAC Server almost always hosts pre-recorded “Server Missions”, in which fleets of Blokes in bombers attack opposing airfields. Sometimes these bombers are opposed by interceptor Blokes. Sometimes the interceptor Blokes are shot down by fighter Blokes. These pre-recorded missions provide an intense, persistent experience even if no other human players are active, since the pre-recorded aircraft fly formations that were actually flown by skilled human players, according to devious and dangerous strategies. Sentient, network players can join these Server Missions at any time, joining, escorting, or opposing the automated aircraft.  When flying among these "Replay" aircraft, you never know when a real, live, human or "Sentient" player is going to join. It is becoming commonplace for users to experience a mixture of "Replay" and "Sentient" mission participants. In Realm "01", "Peabody's Mission", "Network Battle 02", and "Network Battle 03" are the most popular, and because they are almost always populated with sophisticated, diverse Replay Blokes, they are very rewarding even if no other players join in! (Sometimes Server Missions are also populated with Replay Blokes in Realm "00", but Realm "01" is preferred and enjoys better, smoother support.)

While the LAC community is small, we recommend that everybody restrict their normal activities to Realm  "01" to make it easier for us to find one another.

The Future

Now that LAC design and development is stable, the developers have commenced a promotional campaign aimed at getting it into the free software repositories for all of the major LINUX distributions. We've already enjoyed a degree of success in that effort. LAC is appearing in more and more LINUX repositories for easy distribution according to the most popular norms. Furthermore, for LINUX distros NOT supporting LAC in their official repositories, the new "AppImage" version of LAC is extremely easy for almost any desktop LINUX user to download and run with no need to compile it or to install additional libraries. Accordingly, even though the community of LINUX users that are also world war II aviation fanatics is small, it is likely that many people will soon begin to enjoy LAC from locations all around the world. Other Realms will get populated, and perhaps additional LAC servers will appear.

Because LAC is open-source software, the future is wide open, and it could be up to you! LAC has the basics in place, and derivative works could be taken in almost any direction. Perhaps we may someday see versions of LAC that focus on the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, or one of the modern, Middle-East conflicts of the present day. Time (and available resources from the open-source community) will tell…

External View of Lockheed P38 "Lightning"
Fig. 24: Players can easily view their own aircraft from any angle by pressing "x" for "External View". This is a Lockheed P38 "Lightning" fighter. (Click image for a larger version.)

Conclusions

At the time of this writing, LAC has emerged as the  overall leader in free, open-source combat flight sims for Linux. It’s not perfect, and it’s not the best in any one area, but it’s better than average at everything that counts. It’s fun, well documented, and easy to learn. In particular, because its emphasis is on historic simulation more than on gaming, LAC is far more realistic than the “game console” toys that are popular with teens and young adults, but it is almost as easy to learn because there is no need to memorize magic “spells” or game-specific, whimsical, imaginary features: it's all just science and history.  LAC is full of compromises made in the name of fun, simplicity, high performance, and easy learning. Those compromises diminish the painful aspects of ultra-realism, but the resulting balance yields an almost perfect blend of realism and fun.  It just works, and for anybody that understands the basics of flight and historic air combat tactics, it just makes sense!