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My attempt at making the "M-Ratings": the DCS I-ratings

Posted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 11:37 am
by RISCfuture
Hello! This is my go at putting together something similar to the I-ratings, except it is flown with military aircraft to and from military airfields in the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR). Obviously this is intended to be flown in DCS World, but you can fly it in any supported simulator, so long as you fly a military aircraft with the capability of receiving TACAN stations.

Remember, these are not official ratings! Don’t go asking ATC for your “M-rating” score after you land; you’ll just confuse them.

This course consists of five training flights and three flights that simulate actual training hops that would be flown out of Nellis. All flights are intended to be flown by a /P aircraft (TACAN and mode-C transponder capable). In DCS, you can fly these lessons with the F-5E Tiger, Mirage 2000C, or the A-10C "Warthog".

The PilotEdge client for DCS is not publicly available. Please join the PilotEdge Discord and ask an employee for access.

You should complete the I-ratings before beginning these lessons. I do not go into the same level of detail as the I-ratings in the narratives, so you will need to know your IFR basics. Plus you will be flying a fast, high-performance aircraft, which will significantly increase the challenge. Make sure you know how to tune and navigate to TACAN stations, operate the UHF radio, and set squawk codes for the aircraft you are flying.

Important Notes for DCS World

DCS World has a long-standing altimetry bug, since even the version 1.5 days, that to this day remains unfixed. The altimeter of any aircraft in DCS World will become progressively more inaccurate the higher you climb. At 20,000 ft MSL, your altimeter will read about 600 feet low. This is unfortunately unacceptable for flying in an environment shared with other flight simmers and ATC.

Until this bug is fixed, you will need to read your altitude off of the cockpit status bar in DCS World. Under Settings, click the MISC tab, and then check the "Cockpit Status Bar" box. Then, the next time you enter the 3D world, press LCTRL+Y to toggle on the status bar. You will see your actual altitude along the bottom of the screen. Reference this number when cruising at assigned altitudes in PilotEdge.


As I said before, these ratings can be flown with TACAN-capable aircraft in other simulators; only DCS has the altimetry bug.

Most every military aircraft includes only one TACAN receiver; quite different from dual VOR receivers you may be used to. TACAN procedures are designed to be easily flown with only one receiver (+ the DME indication), so this shouldn't be any hindrance.

Most military aircraft radios do not have a standby frequency. What you tune is what you get. Instead, military aircraft radios use "presets", numbered typically from 1 to 20, which can be pre-programmed with common frequencies. Each squadron will publish its "crystallization plan" which will list which frequencies are assigned which presets. So far example, Nellis ATIS might be preset 1, Nellis Ground preset 2, etc. In real life, the crystallization plan is given to the Tower staff, so they can tell an aircraft to merely "push button 4" (change to preset 4) rather than specifying the discrete frequency. In PilotEdge, of course, you won't have that luxury, but you can still pre-program your own custom crystallization plan. Use the Mission Editor in DCS to pre-program the preset frequencies you want.

Since you're using your TACAN receiver only, you won't have any turn anticipation. And at 300 to 400 knots, you will need a hefty amount of anticipation to avoid overshooting your course. Expect to start turning 3 to 6 NM prior to each fix, depending on your speed and the turn angle.

Aircraft-Specific Notes: F-5E Tiger II

The F-5 does not have a turn rate indicator, so you will not have any reference for making a standard-rate turn. As a rule of thumb, a standard-rate turn at 250 knots is 30° of bank. Required bank increases as speed increases.

The F-5 does not have an ILS receiver. You will be limited to TACAN approaches only.

The F-5 doesn't have a whole lot of internal fuel capacity, so be sure to take an external fuel tank for those longer flights.

Pre-Reading: Getting to Know the NTTR

Before you step to the jet and blast off for your first training mission, you need to familiarize yourself with the NTTR. (As a side note, military pilots never spell out an acronym, even if the acronym doesn't have any vowels. So they would refer to the NTTR as "Nitter.")

In real life, military aircraft operating in the NTTR do so under what's called Military Assumes Responsibility for Separation of Aircraft (MARSA). That's a fancy way of saying that civilian ATC is not involved. In real life, the agency that controls and coordinates aircraft within the NTTR is the Nellis Air Traffic Control Facility (NATCF, "Nat-Sif"), and has the callsign "Blackjack." As a trainee pilot, civilian ATC would terminate radar services and hand you off to Blackjack, who would then get you to your scheduled range.

In PilotEdge, the NTTR is uncontrolled airspace. You will be canceling services with your controller, and once you're in the NTTR, you are free to fly to whichever range you wish. There are no airways within the NTTR, so you will be doing all your navigation visually. Be sure the weather is good enough at the range that you can accomplish this.

This is a broad overview of what's where in the NTTR:


R4808A is "The Container", otherwise known as Area 51, Groom Lake, or Dreamland. That is a no-go area at any altitude. All of our departures and arrivals will be planned to avoid that area.

The 60s are a group of ranges south of The Container, numbered from 61 to 65. These make for great air-to-ground practice areas. In real life, these ranges are littered with juicy targets to practice on, from shipping containers to old trucks and tanks.

The 70s are another group of ranges at the northwest of the NTTR. These ranges are also used for air-to-ground training, as well as a staging area for REDFOR during Flag exercises. The ECs are where simulated electronic warfare training happens.

Coyote and Caliente are a group of ranges used commonly for air-to-air training. Caliente is also the staging area for BLUFOR during Flags.

Sally and Lee Corridors are the main routes that aircraft take when entering and leaving most ranges within the NTTR. The other areas are used for staging, training, air refueling, and transiting as needed. (Lee Corridor is not shown, but is south of the 60s.)


The LATNs are the low-altitude tactical navigation areas. These areas are used by military aircraft to practice low-level flying.

Aircraft in the NTTR use the Nellis AFB altimeter setting at all altitudes, even above 18,000 feet.

If you want to go really deep, sign up for an account at and then visit -- this web page will let you browse each of the ranges, learn about the rules and restrictions of each range, how it's controlled, and what targets are available. Obviously most of this will not apply to our training, but it's interesting nonetheless! You can also Google for and download the USAF Nellis Local Flying Procedures publication 11-250, which goes into great detail about how Nellis AFB and the NTTR is operated in real life. The procedures taught here are based on the 11-250, with concessions made for sim-isms and DCS-isms.

Pre-Reading: Getting to Know Nellis AFB

Nellis AFB is the primary airbase for NTTR training. It's a USAF airbase, but especially during Flags, it is host to aircraft from many branches of the military, and many other nations. Typically aircraft depart Nellis from runway 03R and arrive on runway 21R, to avoid noise-sensitive areas. There are published noise-abatement departure procedures for 21L/R departures, which we will cover during one of the lessons as extra credit.

Most of the time, aircraft depart from and arrive at Nellis using visual procedures. These are similar to SIDs and STARs, except that they are intended to be flown in Day VFR only. These procedures are not published by the FAA, so you can't find them at, but I have re-created them as "Jeppesen-like" charts, shared below.



Most of the based aircraft at Nellis park at rows 1 through 44. The northern rows, as well as T-West and T-East, are reserved for visiting aircraft. Go ahead and choose a row between 1 and 44 and call it your home row. If you are flying the A-10, you can also opt to park at the LOLA, as A-10s commonly do in real life. If you choose to park at the LOLA, which is on the other side of the runways, adjust the taxi instructions in each lesson accordingly.

Pre-Reading: Military Navigation and Communication

Military aircraft navigate using a TACAN receiver, which is similar to a VOR + DME receiver, but using entirely different frequencies. TACAN stations are identified by their channel and band. The channel is a number between 1 and 127, and the band is either X or Y -- for example, 12X for Nellis (LSV) TACAN. Other than using channels and bands instead of frequencies, TACANs are functionally identical to VORDMEs. In fact, many TACANs are co-located with VORDMEs, making them VORTACs: For example, Las Vegas (LAS) VORTAC is receivable on 116.9 as a VOR, or 116X as a TACAN.

When VORs and TACANs are combined into VORTACs, the channel and band of the TACAN can be derived from the frequency of the VOR by using the table published in FAA Advisory Circular 00-31A, Appendix 3.

Also, the Jeppesen charts at military airbases will show the TACAN channel for any TACANs used as part of the procedure:


Note the "TAC-12" above the information plate. The band is always X. (In this case, Nellis TACAN [LSV] is a TACAN only, not a VORTAC, so the fictional VOR frequency is shown in parentheses.) If the TACAN channel is not shown, use AC 00-31A to find it.

The Plate Pack

I've put together a plate pack you can reference throughout this training. It includes the unpublished military procedures for KLSV and KINS, drawn painstakingly by Yours Truly in a "Jeppesen-like" format. These training lessons will reference those plates, as well as charted IFR procedures, such as the FYTTR6* departure and HI-ILS 21L approach at KLSV. The IFR plates can be downloaded at AirNav, SkyVector, or Navigraph Charts as usual.

*Or FYTTR7 or whatever it's called when you read this.

Download the DCS NTTR VFR Plate Pack

If you use ForeFlight, you can also download my NTTR Content Pack, which will add NTTR range boundaries and fixes to your ForeFlight map.

UHF Communication

Military aircraft typically use their VHF radio for intra-flight (lead/wingman) communication, and communicate with ATC over UHF. (Military pilots call them "Uniform" and "Victor" radios.) Most every ATC facility (ground, tower, approach, center) has published UHF as well as VHF frequencies. In real life it's common for ATC to simulcast over both UHF and VHF, so civilian pilots on VHF hear only one half of a conversation that happens on UHF. In PilotEdge, you will hear everyone on UHF just as if you were on VHF.

Civilian charts will not show the UHF frequencies on them, but you can still find those frequencies at AirNav and SkyVector. UHF frequencies start with a "2" or "3" instead of a "1".

M-01: First Approach

OK, done with your pre-reading? Our first training flight will mirror the I-01 rating: A simple departure from our home airbase of Nellis AFB (KLSV), with radar vectors to join the ILS for runway 21L right back at Nellis. Unfortunately, in the world of Mach-2 fighter jets, nothing is simple. Nellis AFB is the primary airbase for the busiest training airspace in the world, so there are no simple departures. We can expect to be assigned the FYTTR6 departure, so we will need to review that as well.




First, file your flight plan on the PilotEdge website. We will be flying from KLSV to KLSV, and our route will simply be FYTTR KRYSS. If you are flying with IMC weather, you can use KLAS as an alternate.

Once in the cockpit, call up Nellis Clearance on UHF (289.4) and request your clearance. We can expect our clearance to be "FYTTR6 to FYTTR except climb and maintain ###, then direct", with "###" being an altitude appropriate for your aircraft.

Get your taxi clearance from Nellis Ground (275.8); request runway 03R if necessary -- runway 21 has a much more complicated departure procedure! Taxi as instructed to the runway. Prior to reaching the runway, pull into an open lane in the arm/de-arm area. Military aircraft always pause at the arm/de-arm area prior to takeoff, so that ordnance crews can pull the safety pins from the weapons, and so that pilots can do their pre-takeoff checks.


Get your takeoff clearance from Nellis Tower (327.0), then exit the arm/de-arm area and take off. A procedural difference you will notice at military airbases is that you are handed off to departure before takeoff -- military aircraft fly so quickly that you won't have time to take a handoff to departure after takeoff.

After departure, reduce thrust immediately as necessary to keep the speed below 250 knots. Most fighter aircraft are exempt from the "250 knots below 10,000 feet" speed limit, but in our case, the slower we do this flight, the less likely we are to make mistakes. Fly runway heading until you reach 5,800 feet, then make a left turn to intercept LSV R-270 outbound while climbing to your assigned altitude.

If Nellis Approach asks your intentions, let them know you'd like radar vectors for the ILS X-ray 21L. (If you're flying the F-5, ask for the TACAN X RWY21L.) At some point, you will begin receiving vectors to the north to take you back around to the final approach course.

When you hear "cleared ILS X-ray 21L", you are free follow the localizer and glideslope back to runway 21L. Important: In DCS World, the glideslope for runway 21L will not come alive until you are pretty close to the runway. Follow the localizer step-down fixes until you pick up the glideslope, so that you don't end up too high.

Nellis Control will hand you back to Tower. Make a landing on runway 21L and roll all the way to the end. All landings at Nellis are full-length landings. Take the last exit on the right side, and taxi into the arm/de-arm area. Perform your after-landing checks.

Tune Nellis Ground and request a taxi back to where you started (e.g., Row 30). If you want to go right on to the next lesson, you can simply request a delay at the arm/de-arm area while you set up for your next lesson.

Extra Credit: Prior to joining the ILS, inform Nellis Control that you will be flying the published missed. At the decision height (DH), fly the published missed approach back to ARCOE intersection. (Keep your speed under control, and always fly the airplane first and foremost!) Once at ARCOE, request radar vectors for another go at the ILS X 21L.

M-02: Short IFR Flight

Our second flight mirrors the I-02. We will depart Nellis as before, but this time we will fly IFR to Tonopah Test Range (KTNX), under IFR procedures the entire way. As before, you can fly this mission in IMC; there will be no visual procedures.



Because we are /P and not /G, we are very limited in the routes we can use to get to and from airports. And because the NTTR is MARSA airspace, under the control of NATCF, there aren't any Victor airways or jetways we can use to get to Tonopah. Because of this, we are filing a route that includes a course leg off of the Beatty (BTY) TACAN that will get us to JIREM, essentially inventing our own leg to connect to the two waypoints.


As before, you can expect your clearance to begin with "FYTTR6 FYTTR". If you are still at the arm/de-arm area, you can go straight to Tower after reading back your clearance, and request your takeoff clearance once your pre-takeoff checks are complete. Otherwise, contact Ground and request a taxi clearance.

Fly the FYTTR6 to FYTTR intersection, just as before. After FYTTR you can simply fly direct to BTY TACAN. Upon crossing BTY TACAN, fly outbound on the 349 radial, which will point you towards JIREM. When queried as to which approach you want, request radar vectors for the ILS 32 (TACAN 32 for the F-5E). JIREM is defined only by the Silverbow (TQQ) VORTAC. Nellis Approach may give you direct to JIREM, even though you are /P. This is common in real life too; T-38 trainee pilots were taught a quick and dirty way to do fix-to-fix navigation using their TACAN receiver. You can give that a try if you want, or just request vectors to intercept the localizer.

Approach will probably also give you a descend-via clearance -- harder to do in an F-5 than a 737! The easiest way to handle that is to use the simple 3-in-1 rule: it takes 3 miles horizontally to descend 1,000 feet vertically. So if you're up at 22,000 feet, and you were given a descend-via to 10,000 feet, you should start your descent 36 miles back. Eyeballing the map, KTNX is about 60 NM from BTY, so when your DME indication shows 36 NM, it's time to descend.

Commence the approach when cleared, and change to Silverbow Tower (257.95) when instructed. Come to a stop after clearing runway 32, and change to Silverbow Ground (335.5). Request a taxi to Bravo Ramp if you're done for the day, or a taxi back to the runway 32 arm/dearm area if you are ready for the next lesson.


As you taxi down taxiway F, don't be surprised if you see scores of F-117s parked under all those hangars! The US Air Force keeps them in ready retired condition here.

Extra Credit: Instead of the ILS 32 at Tonopah, request the TACAN runway 32 approach. The TACAN 32 approach is a non-precision approach that gets you down to 6,080 feet. Upon reaching the missed approach point at ITOGE, fly the missed approach to ROCEN, and then request the TACAN runway 14 from ROCEN (which has ever so slightly lower minimums). Continue flying the hold until you are cleared for the approach from ROCEN. Note the max holding speed on the plate -- easy to exceed in a fighter jet!



M-03: SID and STAR

This training mission will mirror I-05, and serve as an introduction to published SIDs and STARs in the Nellis area. We will be repositioning our aircraft from Tonopah (KTNX) to Las Vegas International (KLAS), the hub of the Las Vegas area. Even rookie fighter pilots who have seen and done it all can get terrified flying into a busy airport like KLAS -- it's very different from the sort of flying they're used to doing!

As with the previous two hops, this one is done entirely under IFR and can be flown in IMC if desired.





We're going to fly the STOFF2 departure from KTNX, then direct to Beatty VORTAC (BTY), and from there join the complex PUMLE1 arrival into KLAS. There's a lot going on here, so be sure to "brain-fly" this flight before stepping to the jet!

The STOFF2 departure is simple enough; depending on your runway, you either fly straight out to STOFF intersection, or you make a right turn to join the straight-out course. Be sure you're above 10,000 feet by reaching STOFF -- not a difficult challenge for a fighter jet.

From STOFF fly directly to BTY VORTAC, and get that arrival plate up, because here's where things get busy. Laterally, the arrival is simple: Fly outbound on BTY R-113 to join Boulder City (BLD) R-258 inbound. But, most fighter jets don't have any sort of VNAV system onboard, so you're going to have to make sure you hit each of those altitude restrictions manually. Use the 3-in-1 rule I mentioned in the previous lesson, and keep your descent rate around 2,000 fpm, and it should work out fine.

Upon or before reaching BLD VORTAC, Las Vegas Approach will begin vectoring you for an approach. If it's VMC and you've had enough approaches for one day, feel free to accept the visual approach if it's offered. If you're ready for one more, go ahead and request the ILS 19R. Remember though: KLAS is a busy airport and there may be other PilotEdge users coming or going, so be prepared to get an approach to a different runway. Have your plates ready.

If you're given the visual for runway 19L/R, expect to be told to turn base abeam the Stratosphere, which is easy to find in DCS.

At some point you will be handed off to Las Vegas Tower (257.8), and then Las Vegas Ground (254.3 or 270.8) after clearing the runway. Request a taxi to Signature on the west side of the airport. Park at Signature (amongst the 737s) and shut down -- what a day!

(If it feels weird to fly a fighter jet into a civilian FBO, don't worry! It happens all the time in real life. Fly into enough FBOs and eventually you will see a four-ship of T-6s or T-38s parked outside.)

Extra Credit: Take a look at the JAYSN1 arrival, and the LOHLA1 departure, from KLAS. These brand-new procedures were added just for the "Janet" aircraft that fly between KLAS and Tonopah or Groom Lake, carrying scientists and engineers to their secret projects. These procedures are not available to civilians, and nothing except the A-10 in DCS is capable of flying RNAV procedures on PilotEdge anyway, so we won't be flying them... but it's still fun to take a look. A Janet flight, upon reaching JAYSN, would cancel ATC services and change to a military callsign for the approach into Groom Lake.

M-04: Full Approach, Non-Precision, HI-TACAN

This will mirror the I-07 flight, in that we will be flying a full procedure non-precision approach (back Nellis this time). But we're also going to get exposure to something distinctly military: The HI-TACAN approach.

You may notice that the plate pack for a military airbase such as Nellis comes with approaches labeled HI-TACAN or HI-ILS. These approaches start at much higher altitudes than their regular counterparts, and their routing gives the aircraft lateral room to descend onto the final approach course.




The HI-TACAN Z for runway 21L at Nellis starts at ARCOE intersection, all the way up at 15,000 feet (or higher). From ARCOE you fly inbound to WISTO, where you begin a descending 21 DME arc onto the final approach course at KUTME. From there it's another step-down to JENAR, the final approach fix, and then a series of step-downs to the missed approach point at KITCH. It's a more involved procedure than a normal TACAN approach, but starts much further out.

Parked at Signature Flight Support, get your clearance on 118.0 -- that's right, clearance delivery at KLAS is on VHF only. If you're flying the F-5E, which only has a UHF radio, ask Ground for your clearance. Your routing will likely begin with "HOOVR7 departure, radar vectors Mormon Mesa."

Once you're ready, get your clearance to taxi and takeoff. (Since this is a civilian airport, you will be handed over to Departure after takeoff.) Depart and fly the heading shown on the plate. Eventually you will begin getting radar vectors to MMM VORTAC. Once you're at MMM, it's a sharp left turn to fly the 251 radial outbound -- you'll want to anticipate this turn! The 251 radial will point you right at ARCOE.

Once you're cleared for the HI-TACAN, bug your current heading and tune your TACAN to LSV (12X). Set your course to the inbound course from ARCOE (178). Keep flying your current heading until you start to intercept the 278 course, then turn to establish inbound. You should be just about 30 DME from LSV, and you can begin flying the charted approach from there.

Fly the approach as charted to runway 21L, switching to Nellis Tower when instructed. Remember to roll all the way to the end of the runway, then come off to the right and request a taxi back to your row (e.g., Row 31). Give yourself a pat on the back -- you're finally back home.

Extra Credit: Oh no! You've got unsafe munitions! This is a serious situation that will require you to invoke extra safety measures to ensure the munitions don't pose a risk to anyone on the ground. Once you're established on the final approach course and below the LAS class-B airspace, cancel IFR and request a low approach and then right traffic. (In real life you'd also inform Nellis of the hung-store situation.) Pretend you were told to fly to Jettison Hill and attempt a drop there. Jettison Hill is on the LSV TACAN R-351 at 5.2 NM. After turning downwind for runway 21R, approach the hill on the 351 radial between 5,000 ft and 8,000 ft MSL. Your aimpoint for the drop is the base of the hill. If your ordnance jettisons successfully, go ahead and turn base to final for 21R. Otherwise, you will need to divert to Creech AFB. Request a departure from the class-B direct Creech AFB. Fly direct to the INS TACAN (87X), check in with Indian Springs Tower (360.625), and request runway 26. Roll to the end and come off to the right on taxiway G. Tune Indian Springs Ground (275.8) and request taxi to the Hung Ordinance Area. Shut down and wait for EOD crews to come and safe up your aircraft. Once you're good to go, depart Creech VFR and return to Nellis AFB via a visual approach 21R. (Note: In a fighter jet, this can all happen very fast! To keep things manageable, keep your landing gear down and stay at approach speed for all of these maneuvers.)





M-05: Visual Departures and Arrivals

Alright, this is our last training lesson before we go fly the real missions! This one will be uniquely Nellis -- there is no I-rating that mirrors this! We spent the last four lessons entirely IFR "in the system", but the reality is, most days at Nellis the weather is clear and hot. There's usually no need to add the overhead of IFR departures and approaches to what is already the busiest military airspace in the world.

Because of that, Nellis AFB has a handful of standardized visual departure and arrival procedures. These procedures are approved for Day VFR only. The controllers at Nellis know about these procedures and will recognize them by name.

These next missions will all be done in VMC, with no IFR flight plan, so make sure you have good weather before taking off.

Today we will fly the RWY03 FLEX departure from runway 03R, and then a series of fixes that will take us up to the 70s ranges. We'll fly across the Coyote ranges to Sally Corridor, and from there we will fly the ARCOE arrival back to KLSV. The sum total of this will be a nice loop around The Container and a tour of the NTTR:


There's no need to file this flight plan on PilotEdge, since we will be VFR. (In real life, though, military pilots must always fill out a DD-175 form prior to each flight, VFR or IFR.) You couldn't file it on PilotEdge anyway, since the routing contains VFR-only procedures and fixes.


(If you look closely at the FAA sectional, you'll see some of the VFR landmarks I'll be discussing below, such as Quartzite Mountain, the Belted Range, Bald Mountain, and Mt. Irish.)

The charts for the FLEX departure and ARCOE recovery are reproduced below. Study them before you step to the jet:



Contact Nellis Clearance and request a FLEX departure to FYTTR. You will be told "cleared to exit the class-B airspace" via FLEX, and given a departure frequency and squawk code, just like an IFR clearance. Get your taxi and takeoff clearance from Nellis Ground and Tower, respectively. After taking off from runway 03R, continue flying runway heading, remaining below 3,000 feet while passing east of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the giant racetrack to your left.


After passing the Speedway, turn left and locate FLEX, a waypoint marked by a gun range that appears as four distinctive triangles in the sand.


Turn left to cross north of FLEX heading westbound. You want to be far enough north of FLEX that you stay out of the 5,000-foot shelf of the KLAS class-B. This will put you just over the foothills of Gass Peak to your right. Once you're pointed westbound, begin climbing to 8,000 feet. Make sure you're at 8,000 feet before 15 DME, so as to safely overfly a very busy civilian flight training area at that location.

Climb to your cruising altitude and fly direct to FYTTR intersection, using fix-to-fix navigation (LSV 270/33.0), or a heading of 267. Then begin navigating to JAYSN also using fix-to-fix navigation (BTY 100/37.0). A heading of 297 will take you from FYTTR to JAYSN.

As you can see, just because these procedures are VFR-only does not make them any less complex! The FLEX departure involves a mix of visual and instrument flying, as is typical for the Nellis VFR procedures. Be prepared to shift your view between your instruments and the outside world as needed.

Once you're on your way to FYTTR and clear of the class-B, Nellis Approach will cancel services with you. (If they ask for your intentions, just tell them you wish to cancel services and enter the NTTR.) You're now out of the system and free to navigate as you choose, but stay out of the Flight Levels until you get into the NTTR.

Once you're at JAYSN, turn northwestbound to enter the NTTR via R-4808E and R-4808D. Navigate visually using the map if you can, or by using fix-to-fix navigation to FLUSH intersection (LSV 288/73.0, 311°) and GARTH intersection (LSV 303/90.0, 348°). Use your TACAN to know when you are crossing each fix.

GARTH is at the southern end of the Quartzite Range. After reaching GARTH, turn right and head across the valley to Belted Peak. Belted Peak is the northernmost tip of the Belted Range, and is a visual indication of the northern and western borders of The Container. Stay north of Belted Peak at all times while in the Coyote ranges.


Once north of Belted Peak, fly due east to the town of Rachel, over the circular center-pivot irrigation fields which pilots call "The Farms". This will take you across the Coyote C range, where air-to-air training typically takes place.


From Rachel, continue eastbound to Mt. Irish, a distinctive cross-shaped mountain complex. You will pass by Bald Mountain to your right. The eastern edge of The Container is midway between Bald Mountain and Mt. Irish.


Fly over Mt. Irish and look for Crystal Springs, a town on a long, thin green oasis running north-south. Follow the oasis southbound to Sally Corridor.


The oasis tracks highway 93, which you can follow southbound through Sally Corridor. You will pass Thunderbird Lake ("T-Bird Lake"), a large dry lakebed in the next valley over to the west.


When you pass T-Bird Lake, start descending to 15,000 feet to prepare for the ARCOE arrival. Check in with Nellis Approach on 254.4 MHz and request the ARCOE recovery. (Since ARCOE is also the name of the initial approach fix for multiple IFR procedures, you may need to call it the "ARCOE APEX" recovery to avoid confusion.)

Tune your receiver to the Nellis TACAN and intercept the 355 radial. Once you reach ARCOE (LSV 355/30.0), turn to heading 166 and start descending. The next visual waypoint you are looking for is APEX.


APEX can be recognized by an old cement plant next to a highway interchange. It's a very important waypoint, as it is the visual initial point for all approaches into the 21 runways at Nellis.

Prior to reaching APEX, Approach will hand you to Nellis Tower. Tower will tell you whether to expect the overhead approach or the straight-in -- check the plate! There are different altitudes to hit depending on which you are given.

After overflying APEX at the appropriate altitude, turn towards runway 21R and descend to make your next altitude restriction. Slow to your final approach speed if you were told to fly the straight-in. Cross 5 DME from the LSV TACAN at the charted altitude, then begin your final descent to the runway.

If you were assigned the straight-in, simply begin your final approach to the runway and land. If you were assigned the overhead, maintain 3,500 ft MSL and between 300 and 350 knots (A-10s: 250 knots). You will likely be told to break "over the numbers" and report the break. Once you're overhead the runway 21 numbers at 3,500 feet, start a highly-banked 3-g turn onto the downwind for either 21L or R (whichever you were assigned). The downwind is to the outside of the runway, so if you were assigned 21R, your break would be to the right. Use the break turn to slow to your approach speed, and descend to 3,000 feet.

For runway 21R, keep your downwind outside of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and turn base after passing the Speedway. For runway 21L, overfly the Munitions Storage Area (MSA) on your downwind, and then turn base. Expect to be cleared to land after you report "in the break." Make your base-to-final turn once you are fully configured to land.


Roll out the full length, then ... well you know what to do. Park at your home row or return to the arm/dearm for the your first real sortie.

Extra Credit: If you're up for it, give the runway 21 departure procedure a try. This departure takes you around some noise-sensitive communities, so it's much more complex than departing from runway 3L/R.

Departures from the 21s use the CRAIG turnout:


This plate refers you to the NADP for runway 21, so you'll need that as well:


After being given your clearance to take off from runway 21L/R, start your takeoff roll. Rotate and climb expediently to 3,000 feet. Stay between 2,500 and 3,000 feet as you cross the Nellis Golf course on your left.


Be sure to note the instructions about afterburner usage on the plate (unless you're an A-10 driver). Once you're past the golf course, start a sharp right turn to heading 300 with a full 60° of bank. Stay within 4 DME of LSV TACAN. When you're on heading 300, begin climbing again and locate Craig Ranch Regional Park to your left, and Shadow Creek Golf Course to your right.


Fly between those two green squares while staying between 5,000 and 6,000 feet. Twist your course knob to 270, and intercept the outbound course. You can begin to climb to your cruise altitude once you're north of R-256. Fly R-270 outbound to FYTTR, then continue as per the planned flight. Whew!

M-06: Full Training Sortie (A/G)

Congrats rookie, you just completed your Nellis and NTTR familiarization course. You're now ready to start flying combat training missions in the NTTR! For our first mission, we're going to fly a very typical route from Nellis into the 62 Ranges, where we will do some air-to-ground work in Dogbone Lake. So load up your favorite air-to-ground munitions and let's blow some stuff up!



We are going to depart via the FLEX departure again, this time to DREAM, but we'll make a left turn before that point into range 62A.

Since this is an entirely VFR flight, you don't need to file a flight plan. Simply request a VFR clearance to exit the class-B via FLEX departure to DREAM. You can cancel ATC services after clearing the class-B and prior to entering the NTTR.

Once you're on your way to DREAM (LAS 352/66.0, 351° from FLEX), start looking out for Dogbone Lake. It's easily recognizable from its bone-like shape.


Turn left to enter the north end of Dogbone Lake (range 62A), fence in, and descend to 15,000 feet. Once you're established over Dogbone Lake, fly southbound and locate the bullseye target at the southern end of the dry lake.


Overfly the target and establish a right-hand traffic pattern over the lake anchored at the target, at 15,000 feet. Fly a nice, long crosswind, a short downwind, and a nice long base. As you approach the target, make an over-banked diving turn onto final. Line up your sights and fire off a weapon onto your target. Fly a safe-escape maneuver that takes you back to the crosswind on your way back up to 15,000 feet. Repeat until you've expended all your munitions.

Don't bust the hard deck of 5,000 feet MSL, and don't stray outside of the valley. If you're not stabilized and safe as you turn final, make it a dry run and fly to the crosswind leg without dropping munitions. Limit yourself to 5G of pull max: no yanking and banking; nice, smooth pulls.

When you're finished, climb or descend to 10,000 feet while departing the range to the south. Hop over to the next easternmost valley and fly to SARAH intersection (LSV 314/24.0). Check in with Nellis Approach on 273.55 and request the STRYK recovery. From SARAH, join the STRYK recovery for runway 21R.

The first step is to fly directly to Gass Peak, an easily-recognizable mountain bordering the northern end of the city:


Overfly Gass Peak at or above 8,500 to the southern side, then turn left to a heading of 080 direct to APEX. Descend to cross APEX at 4,000 or 4,500 feet (straight-in or overhead), while making a sharp right turn onto the initial for runway 21R.

Slow to approach speed, and descend to cross 5 DME from LSV at 3,000 or 3,500 (straight-in or overhead). Fly the straight-in or the overhead and land. Come off to the right and head request taxi back to your parking. Congrats on a great sortie!

M-07: Full Training Sortie (A/A)

Good morning, aviator! Today you will be flying a typical air-to-air training sortie in the Coyote A and C ranges. You'll want to bring a wingman with you and depart as a two-ship flight, so that the two of you can do some basic fighter maneuvers (BFM) training at the range. Oh, and be sure to load an extra fuel tank if you can... dogfighting takes a lot of gas.


The flight today will be the FLEX turnout to DREAM again, with an ARCOE arrival this time. You should already be familiar with both plates. Once we get to DREAM, we will proceed visually to the Coyote C range, where we will mix it up!

As before, this flight is entirely VFR, so no need to file a flight plan. As before, request a departure via the FLEX turnout to DREAM, but this time, continue all the way to DREAM. Don't climb above 17,500 feet until you enter the NTTR.

Once you get to DREAM, continue northbound, following the South Pahroc range to Student Gap:


Student Gap is where flights hold prior to entering the Coyote ranges. From Student Gap, turn westbound and overfly Mt. Irish (remember that mountain from M-05?), on your way into Coyote A and C. Don't forget your landmarks to help you stay out of The Container: Belted Peak and Bald Mountain. Just stay within the valley north of Rachel and you will be fine.

Now it's time to set up for some butterfly sets. PADS (position-altitude-distance-speed) for these sets will be line abreast, 20,000 feet, 1 nautical mile, and 400 knots. Each player calls "1, set" or "2, set" when those parameters are met. (Better quick and sloppy rather than nice and precise; the taxpayers are footing your gas bill.) Lead then calls "Take a cut away" and both aircraft turn 30° away from each other, count three potatoes, then turn back towards each other to face head-on.

When you see your wingman, call "1, visual" or "2, visual." If both people call visual, then you pass your opponent and lead calls "Fight's on!" Otherwise, lead calls "Knock it off" and coordinates a rejoin.

(For an example of a butterfly set, watch my demonstration video.)

After the "Fight's on" call, it's game time! Do some of that pilot s*** and try to get your airplane into position for a tracking shot. When you're in a continuous tracking position and in range, call "Guns guns guns" and then "Terminate" to end the fight. Reset to PADS, and do it again.

Keep doing butterfly sets until either of you has 2,000 pounds of fuel remaining. Call "Knock it off" if either of you breaks the hard deck of 7,000 feet or if both of you lose sight of each other. If you do lose sight, lead should first separate the two aircraft by altitude, and then have both aircraft fly to a recognizable landmark (such as The Farms) where they can find each other.

Once it's time to go home, exit the Coyote ranges eastbound the way you came. Fly to Mt. Irish first, then to Crystal Springs, and south down Sally Corridor to ARCOE. Descend to be at 15,000 feet by ARCOE. Contact Nellis Approach and request the ARCOE recovery. You've done this before, so you know what to do: From ARCOE, fly the ARCOE recovery back to Nellis, for either the straight-in or the overhead.

Once you're back on the ground, park and shut down. Loser buys first round at the O-Club.

M-08: Full Training Sortie (LATN)

For our final training mission, we're going to do a low-altitude stepdown training (LASDT) mission. These missions will get you comfortable with low-altitude flying. In real life, a pilot's first LASDT takes them down to 1,000 ft AGL, then 500 ft AGL, and finally 100 ft AGL. You should fly this LASDT as low as you are comfortable.

The LATN airspace is designed for "random routing" -- in other words, pilots can plan and fly whatever route they wish, so long as they stay within the LATN, below 1,500 AGL, and away from airports and populated areas. In real life, only helicopters and A-10s are permitted to use the LATN for LASDT, but for the sake of training, feel free to use whatever aircraft you wish.




We're going to fly the Mormon Mesa 7 departure from Nellis. This is an IFR departure, so you can file an IFR flight plan if you wish, but you will need to cancel IFR sometime prior to reaching the Mormon Mesa (MMM) VORTAC.

Fly the MMM7 departure as shown on the chart (note that if you are departing from runway 21, you will need to abide by the runway 21 NADP!). If you are VFR, stay at or below 17,500 on your way to MMM VORTAC. If you are IFR, file FL190 as your top altitude.

Once you get to MMM VORTAC (and have canceled any ATC services you were using), turn right to enter the LATN Central airspace. Start descending briskly to 1,000 feet AGL, and accelerate to 400 knots (except the A-10 drivers). Locate a dirt road running southeast from Mesquite. Follow the dirt road as it snakes through a gap in the Virgin Range.



The key to low-altitude flying is the mantra "Near Rocks, Far Rocks, Check Six." You should split your scan between the "near rocks" (the stuff you could hit in the next five seconds) and the "far rocks" (the stuff you could hit in the next 30 seconds). If a mountain range enters your "far rocks" scan, come up with a plan to cross it. You can either fly directly over it, fly around a peak, or saddle it (fly through a col). Your decision should be based on both the nature of the mountain range and the tactical picture around you.

Once you're through the gap, continue on heading 100 across the buttes. Find another north-south running dirt road at the foot of some hills on the horizon, and turn left to follow it north. Ahead of you in the distance will be Mt. Bangs, rising to 8,000 feet.



Fly to its foothills, then turn left to follow the foothills westbound. As you cross the Virgin Range again westbound, make a high-performance climb back up to 17,500 feet, circling as needed to avoid overflying the town of Mesquite. Head direct to MMM VORTAC.



On the way to MMM, tune LSV TACAN and dial in course 202 inbound. From MMM, intercept the inbound course outside of 36 DME, and follow it inbound to ACTON intersection (LSV 022/36.0). Call up Nellis Approach and request the ACTON recovery. From ACTON, fly heading 200 and descend to cross APEX at 4,000 feet.

Fly the ACTON recovery for either the straight-in or the overhead, then make your landing on runway 21R. Taxi back to your home row and shut down. Congratulations, pilot: You just completed the M-ratings!

Stereo Routes

The real Nellis AFB publishes a collection of stereo routes -- prefab flight plans that are commonly used for training. These flight plans make it easier for pilots to file typical flights between KLSV and the various training areas. Think of them like military TEC routes.

You can use these stereo routes to help you plan your flights, but remember that unlike in real life, stereo routes are meaningless in PilotEdge. You can't just file "LSV314" as your routing for example; you have to file the whole route. Also remember that most of these routings are intended for VFR use and include the names of visual fixes or ranges that would be invalid in an IFR flight plan.

These stereo routes are given only for specific aircraft in real life (e.g., F-16), but of course in PilotEdge you can fly them with any aircraft that is capable.

Code: Select all

Route  Airport  Altitude  Type+Equip Code  TAS
R-2508, R-2502, and R-2524 Routes

Code: Select all

LSV113 KLSV 160 F16/P 400
LSV113A R2508 170 F16/P 400
LSV114 KLSV 160 F16/P 400
LSV115 KLSV 160 F16/P 400
LATN Area Routes

Code: Select all

LSV133 KLSV VFR F16/P 400
LSV117 KLSV 160 F16/P 400
AR & Military Training Routes

Code: Select all

LSV118 KLSV 160 F16/P 400
  RMKS: IR286 E PT A T/O +15 MIN X PT G T/O +35 MIN

LSV134 KLSV 230 F16/P 400
  RMKS: E PT A T/O +55 X PT X T/O +95
R-2501 and 29 Palms Routes

Code: Select all

LSV129 KLSV 220 F16/P 400
LSV129A R2501 210 F16/P 400
Thunderbird Practice Area Route

Code: Select all

LSV110 KLSV VFR F16/P 400
Class-B VFR Departures

Class B West Departure:



Class B Northeast Departure:



Re: My attempt at making the "M-Ratings": the DCS I-ratings

Posted: Tue Apr 27, 2021 3:44 pm
by FDXDave
Wow nice work sir. Nice to have new challenges. This is something to practice off line for sure. Then online once I have a clue lol.

You mention "In DCS, you can fly these lessons with the F-5E Tiger, Mirage 2000C, or the A-10C "Warthog".

- Is the DCS FA18 Hornet, using it's TCN able to fly these Dep's and Arrivals? I think it could, but I'm not 100% sure on that.
- Do you have a dedicated server for this range with targets on the ground and flight plans (WP's ) already setup? I don't usually fly on DCS Servers, because I make my own missions, But if you already have some FA18's set up with the proper freqs and WP pre-set, that would be interesting to take a look at. If not, I can make up a flight plan in the ME.

Anyway, looks like I'll be installing my Nevada map again lol.


Re: My attempt at making the "M-Ratings": the DCS I-ratings

Posted: Tue Apr 27, 2021 4:04 pm
by RISCfuture
The Hornet in DCS can fly the TACAN approaches (but not the ILS approaches). You just can't do it on PilotEdge because it's not a supported platform. (That being said, if you have some Lua skills, you could modify the PilotEdge.lua file to support it, using the SimpleRadioStandalone.lua file from SRS as a guide.)

It's on my todo list someday to make a dedicated mission for this, but I haven't yet. The 476th Range Targets mission has a bunch of fixes preloaded, including many of the ones referenced in these lessons. They're preloaded as IPs though, not waypoints, which makes them available in the A-10's waypoint database, but I don't think they're available to the Hornet. You could always add the waypoints in the ME using the IPs as a guide.

Re: My attempt at making the "M-Ratings": the DCS I-ratings

Posted: Tue Apr 27, 2021 6:12 pm
by FDXDave
RISCfuture wrote:The Hornet in DCS can fly the TACAN approaches (but not the ILS approaches). You just can't do it on PilotEdge because it's not a supported platform. (That being said, if you have some Lua skills, you could modify the PilotEdge.lua file to support it, using the SimpleRadioStandalone.lua file from SRS as a guide.)

It's on my todo list someday to make a dedicated mission for this, but I haven't yet. The 476th Range Targets mission has a bunch of fixes preloaded, including many of the ones referenced in these lessons. They're preloaded as IPs though, not waypoints, which makes them available in the A-10's waypoint database, but I don't think they're available to the Hornet. You could always add the waypoints in the ME using the IPs as a guide.
Thank you for the info.


Re: My attempt at making the "M-Ratings": the DCS I-ratings

Posted: Mon Oct 31, 2022 12:21 am
by RISCfuture
These have been updated to reflect the latest Nellis 11-250, dated 17 JUNE 2022. Changes:
  • The FYTTR LO and DREAM LO departures have been removed and replaced with the FLEX and CRAIG turnouts.
  • KLAS, KLSV, and KTNX plates updated to latest revisions from Jeppesen.
  • Added information on which squadrons park at which rows.
  • Updated runway 21 NADP and A-10 VFR departure at KLSV.
  • Updated stereo routes and added class-B departure transitions.
  • Added link to my NTTR ForeFlight content pack.
The VFR plate pack has also been updated and can be downloaded from the same link.