[WIP] General Dynamics “YF-16 Prototype” project


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I have started this thread which is intended for absolute beginners to the FS Developer forum:
- to give everyone an impression what it really takes to build my own FSX compatible aircraft in Blender.
- in order to get them going in the right direction when working with Blender,
- provide a possible "step-by-step" guideline to work along,
- to show the progress of my YF-16 prototype project
So not only the nice, smooth, crispy looking pictures, but also the faults, errors and messy one's.
The hurdles which I had to be overcome, my first time ever Blender 3D mesh modeling challenges

I sincerely hope you all enjoy my progress report.


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1. The YF-16 Prototype project – How it all got started:
As a little child I wanted to become a (jet-fighter) pilot. Longing to be “one of those men in their magnificent flying machines”. Unfortunately my live has taken another turn (“ICT-technology” in all her aspects) but “the magic of (military) flight (simulation)” never let me go.
My first flight-simulator encounter was on the TRS-80 of my best friends father.
He owned a copy of “T80-FS1 Flightsimulator” - by SubLOGIC:
- http://oldcomputers.net/trs80i.html
- http://www.trs-80.org/t80-fs1/

My first multiplayer flightsimulator was on my friends Commodore Amiga 1000 that was connected to his other Atari 520ST with a serial RS232 cable. We flew many times Head-to-Head in the “F18A-Interceptor” flightsim,“TopGun” style.
- http://oldcomputers.net/amiga1000.html
- http://oldcomputers.net/atari520st.html
- http://www.old-games.com/download/342/f-a-18-interceptor

My first owned home-computer was a Texas Instrument TI99/4a (on which I did not install a flight-sim):
- http://oldcomputers.net/ti994.html

My first self-owned flightsimulator was on a PC-286-AT called “Jet 1.0” by SubLOGIC
- http://www.old-computers.com/MUSEUM/computer.asp?st=1&c=1044
- http://www.old-games.com/download/4316/jet

Later I got a hold of my first copy of Microsoft Flightsimulator V1 for MsDos:
- http://fshistory.simflight.com/fsh/fs2.htm

and that is how I initially got infected with the PC flight-simulator virus.

As I grew older I learned myself more (coding) skills on my PC. I wanted to create my own flightsimulator, so I could be in full control of my own flight simulator experience. I even got started coding in Borland “Turbo Pascal v3.0” creating my own (pilot/navigator flightdeck) flightsim.
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turbo_Pascal

Unfortunately – in the before Internet age – there was not much 3D programming knowledge available to the general public. I still remember to buying the book “Flights of Fantasy” - The Waite Group back then, go get a glimpse into the inner-workings of a flightsimulator:
- https://www.amazon.com/Flights-Fantasy-Programming-Video-Games/dp/1878739182

I also remember reading many “DrDobbs Journals” since that was – in those days – the way to get wiser for me.
- http://www.drdobbs.com/

In the end I gave up my attempt to create my very own flight-simulator and started to enjoy the many, many other (civil and military) sims. This is how I got started in PC-flight-simulation. Some of my favorite sims were:
Apache Longbow 1,2 – Digital Integration - http://www.old-games.com/download/4161/apache-longbow
Commanche 1,2,3 – NovaLogic –------------ http://www.old-games.com/download/6218/comanche-gold
F15 Strike Eagle 1,2,3 – Micropose –-------- http://www.old-games.com/download/4241/f15-strike-eagle
Tornado – Spectrum Holobyte –--------------- http://www.oldpcgaming.net/tornado-1993-review/
EF2000 – Ocean Software –------------------- http://www.oldpcgaming.net/ef2000-review/
Falcon 1,2,3,4 – Micropose –------------------ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_4.0

I've flown a lot of various combat sorties in choppers and jets.


Resource contributor
2. The desire to create my own flightsimulator add-on (2003):
Back in 2000, being part of a military flightsim scene back then.. I wanted to create a way to do real-time over-the-LAN-network/Internet fuel transfer from an Air-to-Air tanker to a thirsty jet-fighter. Something like this:
- https://www.avsim.com/forums/topic/282564-in-flight-refueling-gauge-video/

I quickly developed a little client-server program that connected 2 pc's and exchanged data in Visual Basic 6. Unfortunately I ran into that same wall again,
not being able to find the right VB6 examples and VB6 coding-knowledge to proceed and hook my VB6 executable into the heart of Microsoft Flightsimulator.

Unfortunately most of the available SDK examples back then where written in Visual C and/or C++.
- http://files.fsnordic.net/Flight_Simulator/Miscellaneous/SDK/

So I had to abandon this Air-toAir refuel project since I did not have the time to learn Visual C++ back then.

3. The desire to create, build and fly my own jetfighter (2017):
After “being away from virtual cockpit” for about 9 years (2004-2013), I started again with (online) flight-simulation.
In between - around 2007 - I did get a taste of the opensource FlightGear simulator on Red Hat Linux, but my old computer was simply not powerful enough to run this wonderful simulator fluently.
Later in time I re-joined the VATSIM and IVAO online flight networks. I found myself quickly flying “Special Ops” missions and “Special Ops Worldtours” together with a lot of likewise and passionate pilots.

My current favorite freeware jet-fighters are:
Iris - F15E Strike Eagle and Tornado
Kirk Olson – F16 “Viper” (RLNAF J-066 - “Orange Jumper” livery)
Virtavia – F22 Raptor
Dino Cattaneo – F35 “Lighting II” (RNLAF F-001,2) and Grumman F14 “Tomcat”
Alphasim - Eurofighter Typhoon
Pioffet Cyril - Dassault Rafale
UKMIL – Harrier GR5,7
Various builders - Sukhoi 27, 33D, 34, 35
- http://indiafoxtecho.blogspot.nl/
- http://www.rikoooo.com/downloads
- https://flyawaysimulation.com/downloads.html

All above are magnificent designed and build aircraft.... and for free too... but I .. yeah you guessed it already …
I could not customize them to my own needs..... So as you can imagine by now, the blood creeps where it is not supposed to go ... and I started to look for constructive ways to build my own F-16 “Viper.
That customization desire is sparked my current YF-16 adventure.


Resource contributor
4. Where does one go when one wants to build “a FSX compatible military jet”?
I searched the Internet and found the “Blender2FSX” (B2FSX) tutorials on Youtube created by Kriss Pyatt.
https://www.youtube.com/user/kpgamemods/videos – B2FSX tutorials
http://www.kp-coolstuff.com/ - Kris's own website “Kp-Coolstuff.com”
http://www.fsdeveloper.com/forum/members/krispy1001.11839/ - Kriss's FSDeveloper page

Kris's B2FSX tutorials got inspired and also pointed me in the direction of our “FS Developer” community and.... here I am. I've finally found the best place on the Internet where I can learn everything there is to learn in “the Art of Flightsim add-on creation”

Thank you gentleman! for allowing me to be a part of this amazing group of talented and creative individuals.

5. Learning to use the B2FSX toolkit and the awesome - and free Blender software package:
I quickly downloaded and installed Blender (v2.77)
- https://www.blender.org/download/ - current version
- https://www.blender.org/download/previous-versions/ - previous version archive
and the Blender 2 FSX toolkit:
- http://fsdeveloper.com/forum/threads/blender-to-fsx-toolset.428090/
- http://www.fsdeveloper.com/wiki/index.php?title=Blender2FSX_Toolset_manual

I passionately started to follow Kris's lessons on Youtube:
- https://www.youtube.com/user/kpgamemods/videos?flow=grid&sort=da&view=0

and a long-time dream came true! Everything went fine, until the moment supreme, when I wanted to export my model towards FSX.

A black cryptical Python error message hit my screen and... man... could I get grumpy in no time? YES! I posted this error on the FSDeveloper forum and soon I received from the experts, to get going again.
This event triggered the thought that “it would be wise to master Blender first” before continuing with the Blender2 FSX toolkit. And so “getting my Blender basics right” became the next goal on my radar.


Resource contributor
6. On a quest to gain more Blender (basic and advanced) skills:
After I crashed and burned on Kris's Blender2FSX trail I quickly realized I need to start from the tarmac up. While searching the Net for the best Blender course material online I landed on the CGCookie community website.
- https://cgcookie.com/.
From my own experience, If you just get started with Blender, this is the place 2 Be! I purchased a month subscription and followed these courses:
- “Introduction to Blender” flow 1 – various teachers.
- “Modeling in Blender flow 2 – various teachers.
- “Hard Surface modeling” - Jonathan Williamson
- “Mechanical Rigging of a Fighter Jet in Blender - Chris Kuhn
- “Rigging Jet Engine Nozzles in Blender” - Chris Kuhn

Beside learning new Blender tricks on the CGCookie community, I continued to search the Internet and Youtube channels for more specialized and in-depth tutorials about the subject I needed to get my YF-16 into Blender.
During this search I have compiled an overview of the many Blender related resources for everyone to enjoy.
My overview called “Blender2FSX Toolkit - "Getting Started Guide" can be downloaded here:
- http://www.fsdeveloper.com/forum/resources/blender2fsx-toolkit-getting-started-guide.191/

To make life easier I also created transcripts of Krispy's B2FSX tutorial videos. Download 'm here:
- http://www.fsdeveloper.com/forum/resources/blender2fsx-krispy1001-tutorial-video-transcripts.192/

So – after Blendering around for a while – I finally felt confident enough to start with the next phase. Research!


Resource contributor
7. Doing my background research on the YF16 Prototype:
During this phase of the project I quickly learned about “filter bubbles” of current internet search engines:
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filter_bubble
- https://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles

So I trained myself to use EVERY available Internet search engine – by default - I could get my hands on to burst these filterbubbles again.
Amazing what one can find when one learns to mine the Internet above and beyond Google.

Here is a list of my favorite current (meta) search engines:
- Yahoo –-------------------- https://www.yahoo.com
- Searchx-------------------- https://searx.me/
- Yacy------------------------ http://www.yacy.net/en/index.html
- Yandex (Russian based) - https://www.yandex.com/
- Baidoo (Chinese based) - https://www.baidu.com/
- Dogpile –------------------ https://www.dogpile.com
- WebCrawler –------------- https://www.webcrawler.com/

I also started digging around on free image hosts (like Flickr, Photobucket, Pintrest) proved to be very useful.
- https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=YF-16

On Twitter I even found an “F-16 images gathering bot”, automatically harvesting #F16 tagged pictures:
- https://twitter.com/F16_img_bot

But pictures along do not tell the whole story, so I went on to find related (Y)F16 documents.
I soon found the jackpot in the form of the famous “F-16 handbooks” on F-16.net
- http://www.f-16.net/downloads_F16handbooks.html
- https://publicintelligence.net/?s=F16

This phase of my YF-16 project is still ongoing, since there is always more to know ;-)
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Resource contributor
8. Which YF-16 materials did I need to get started in Blender and why?
The absolute basis is the most detailed “Blueprint”/ Three-way-view (top, front, left/right) view you can find online.
Of course I would like to work from a copy of the original General Dynamics YF-16 manufacturing blueprints, but you can not have it all right? So I decided to get started by using these 5 different blueprints and 1 differential image.

F-16 blueprint from a radio controlled modelers forum – the most detailed cross-section diagram online.

F-16 blueprint from a blueprint website – with lesser detailed cross-section diagram.

YF-16 lateral cross-section diagram – to be able to visualize all her systems inside.

F-16C – Most detailed Top-Front-Side-Rear-Bottom-view blueprint I could find.

F-16 – cutaway drawing, since I like to know what is under her outer skin too.

Differences-diagram between YF-16, F-16 FSD models and regular F-16 production models.

These 6 images gave me enough information to get started in Blender. Although I did not have a copy of the original YF-16 blueprint, I decided just to get started with modeling an F-16C airframe and take it from there. Otherwise I still would remained stuck in this phase of the project. I can always re-adjust the fuselage and cockpit when I can gain access to more detailed YF-16 materials later.

EDIT: (30-05-2017) I've added more blueprints and cockpit diagrams to this section:

F16A Cockpit layout

F16C Cockpit

F16C Center console

F16C Auxilary panel - Left side

F16C Auxilary panel - Right side

F16C Console - Left

F16C Console - Right

F16C - Various angles of panels and consoles

EDIT: In order to keep the length of this thread "under control" I have decided to post the following information / aircraft, part:
- (Summary about that section, the challenges i've encountered)
- 1 relevant image per chapter
- 1 link to my corresponding YF16 Flick Album (which contains the rest of the images)
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Resource contributor
9. Building the F-16C – V1 – Nose cone to Tailpipe – from a cylinder:
This was my first attempt, going by what I had already learned when using industrial grade CAD package like Bentley's Microstation and AutoDesk AutoCad and 3D Studio.
(Hint: There where no mesh-modeling technique back then ;-)

My first 3D wire-frame build in Blender.

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11. Building the F-16C – V2 - Struggling with the cockpit-wingroot section.
After version 2, I still wasn't satisfied with the cockpit leading-edge, wing-root area. So.... I build v3

Album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/yf16_prototype/albums/72157682180835860

Up to this point I was happy with the achieved results since I had no prior Blender mesh-model-experience.
I simply was CAD-modeling and extended my mechanical drawing skills from school into a computer.
Still, I wanted to achieve a better, more smoother flowing F-16C fuselage surface.
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12. Building the F-16C – V3 - cross-sections only – front to back – connecting lines and faces.
This time I choose a totally different approach. One method I still remembered from my early CAD experience on the pc (decades ago). “Building a 3D model from 2D cross-sections only”.
I choose the big F-16C blueprint since it had a number of clearly defined fuselage cross-sections on it. I did not choose the rc-model blueprint, since on that one was just a little too much, a bit overkill for this.
I only wanted to test the “2D to 3D building”principle, not the amount of cross-section. Perhaps I'm going to build a fuselage V4?5? in the near future to be able to model the F-16 fuselage to her absolute perfection, who knows, but for now this approach will do.
I first created the cross-section for a uniform set of circles with an equal number of vertixes on it


All drawn cross-section positioned and aligned along the Y-axis in the Blender model.
I then connecting all similar lines front to back – jumping from cross-section to the next cross-section.

NOTE: Not all faces could be created one-on-one. I had to add some extra faces later on in the process.
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14. Rebuilding the fuselage (v5) in 3D mesh modeling mode:
So far I had been leaning on my old CAD skills to model the fuselage. But, since that did not give me the results I wanted. I made 5th copy of the fuselage, according to the Blender mesh-modeling technique.
Thanks Frits (F747fly) for showing me how to do this properly!

Album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/yf16_prototype/sets/72157684154933736

Now that is looking more and more like a Viper fuselage. This model was satisfying (for now) and I moved on with the next part of the YF16, the landing gears.


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16. Building the landing gear - main wheels.
Now things started to get interesting, the complex movements of the F-16 main landing gear.

The main landing gear of the F16 has 2 different types of motions:
- 2 “rotation only” of the 2 main static landing-gear struts....... (pink and green pipes)
- 1 “in/out-folding/rotating” motion of the retracting bars.......... (red and yellow bars)
So far i've only animated the pink and green bars moving up, down. I will have to study more to be able to animate the retraction bars properly. See the images below for the state of the main landing gear so far.

Album-1: https://www.flickr.com/photos/yf16_prototype/sets/72157682057207511 - Construction
Album-2: https://www.flickr.com/photos/yf16_prototype/albums/72157684294318425 - Animation

TIP: Giving the various parts a different color really helped me in the animation phase.
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17. Adding an animation Rigging Panel to the model
After completing the landing-gears and animations, I decided to expand my Blender skills a bit further. I added a rigging panel to the F16-model, through which I can control all her animated parts.
For building an FSX compatible 3D aircraft modeling, a rigging panel was not essential at all, but I wanted to learn more then just “aircraft-modeling” (for other purposes later on in life as well). So why not do it now?

Album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/yf16_prototype/albums/72157684294332585
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18. Animating a VFR-circuit test-flight:
In order to test the F16-C's airworthiness, I build her a hardened aircraft shelter on a small military airport.
I then created a Blender animation sequence to test all her flight - and animation characteristics.

Album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/yf16_prototype/sets/72157684196264596

She passed her initial flight-test with fly and colors, so I could continue to build the inside of the 3D cockpit.
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20. Building the 3D virtual cockpit:
I have searched the Internet extensively but I was only able to find 2 authentic images of the real YF16 cockpit.
- https://www.flickr.com/photos/yf16_prototype/albums/72157677457828853

So I continued to model her cockpit around the F-16 flightdeck materials I was able to find. On that search I landed on a truly awesome F-16C home-pit builder website over here (http://xflight.de/pe_org_doc.htm[/url'][URL='http://www.fsdeveloper.com/forum/javascript:void(0)']http://xflight.de/pe_org_doc.htm[/url]).
I used these diagrams as background images in Blender and got started to:
- first build an F-16C cockpit as good as I can for now.
- later degrade the F-16C cockpit down to real YF-16 layout.

Album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/yf16_prototype/albums/72157682231571921

NOTE-1: This album contains 42 (detailed and rendered) pictures of the 3D cockpit.
NOTE-2: This is the current state of my 3D cockpit, modeled after a F-16C flightdeck.[/URL]
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Resource contributor
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