Air aces test Eurofighter in a fantasy flight from reality

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The Independent Online

In the skies over an unidentified nation yesterday, Flt Lt Sandy Gordon, of the RAF, and Lt Kevin Seymour, of the Fleet Air Arm, fought a fierce aerial battle, each twisting and turning to avoid being shot down.

The honour of the Royal Navy was narrowly maintained by Lt Seymour who shot down Flt Lt Gordon seconds before his own fighter was reduced to scrap metal by a missile.

In reality, Flt Lt Gordon, who flew Tornado F3 fighters during the Gulf war, and Lt Seymour, who spent two years patrolling Bosnia in Harrier jump-jets, were taking part in the launch of a new computer game.

But the fact they were there illustrates how the boundaries between fantasy and reality in the computer world are becoming blurred, with combat simulators bridging the two.

The two fighter pilots were playing a CD-ROM game that simulates flying the Eurofighter 2000, the next generation of fighter being jointly produced by Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain. Ironically, the game is available six years before the aircraft is due to be in service.

But Digital Image Design (DID), designers of the Eurofighter game TFX:EF2000, have also produced Sigma, a cockpit training simulator for the Ministry of Defence already in use at RAF bases. The company, based in Warrington, Cheshire, was asked to design Sigma after an earlier fighter simulator computer game became a best-seller.

When DID started work on TFX:EF2000 it was given access to declassified information by British Aerospace, the UK contractors for Eurofighter, who also sent representatives to yesterday's launch.

While researching the game, DID made contacts in the RAF that culminated in the company landing a contract for a laser-guided weapons simulator, for pilots to practise precision bombing. The company is now involved in projects for all three armed services.

No computer game can imitate exactly what it is like to be a fighter pilot. But some tactics are as effective in fantasy as in real life. Lt Seymour scored his winning hit by lurking above Flt Lt Gordon's airfield, waiting for him to take off. The Americans used the same tactics against the Iraqis in the Gulf war.