If you are ready to move from flying a piddly Cesna or a over-sized cargo plane to one of the sleek, killer jets the United States Air Force has, or maybe even an older fighter from a different era, its time to change in your run of the mill flight simulator for a combat flight simulator. A successful combat flight simulator takes the best parts of flight simulation—realistically modeled flight and in depth controls—and combines them with the best parts of action games—you get to blow stuff up—to offer the best of both worlds: a realistic chance to test your mettle against a variety of opponents, miles above the earth.
Most types of combat flight simulator fall into one of three categories. They are either historical simulators, so-called “survey sims,” and study simulators.
The first of these combat flight simulator types, the historical simulation, is somewhat self explanatory. It takes a period of historic air combat and renders it on the screen of your computer, giving you the option, usually, of choosing a side. This genre of combat flight simulator has a long history. You might recall the hoary old Red Baron franchise from Sierra as an early example. These vary from title to title in terms of success, but the betters games offer distinct experiences for each model of plane that you can fly. So, flying for the Luftwaffe will require a different strategy than flying for the RAF in a WWII game.
So-called “survey sims” are a brand of combat flight simulator that aims are presenting a wider swath of historical planes than is offered in the narrower scope of historical simulations. These are where you can find a wide variety of, say, modern jets to pilot against other modern jets, or perhaps it would give you a two decade range of planes. As with historical simulations, a combat flight simulator that is a survey sim succeeds or fails on the breadth of its scope. Variety is better.
If the previous two types of combat flight simulator benefited from variety, the last type benefits from depth. The study simulators take a single aircraft and model it so deeply that sometimes the manual for the combat flight simulator can rival the manual for the actual aircraft in size. If you are looking for a true to life combat flight simulator, then a study sim is the way to go.
Whatever your preference, there is a combat flight simulator out there for you. Do a bit of looking around and find one you like. Then go shoot down some bogeys.