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Fleet Defender

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Fleet Defender was a flight simulator published by Microprose in 1994. It features the F-14 Tomcat and, as a commercial game, "is one of the most complicated and realistic PC air combat simulators ever created." [1] The game features exclusively the F-14B version of the aircraft, even in scenarios where it constitutes an anachronism, because the developers found that flying the original underpowered F-14A was very unforgiving and "not much fun" for a commercial flight simulator.[2]

The game

One of the most realistic simulators of its time, Fleet Defender modelled detailed carrier operations including air traffic and take-off/landing under various conditions. Under the most realistic settings, the player had full control of not only the pilot, but the radar intercept officer (RIO) in the radar cockpit as well, having to manage the several available realistic radar modes (the game manual had a section dedicated to the AWG-9 radar itself, which was unusual at the time). In keeping with the real-life aircraft's role, emphasis was placed on using the AIM-54 Phoenix missile as a standoff weapon where possible, rather than engaging the more nimble Soviet fighters in close-quarters dogfighting - although dogfights were inevitable at some point. There was also the option to control your wingmen's formations and tactics.

Three campaign theatres were included in the original game; the Oceana training theatre (which was mostly open sea with a small land area on the edge of the map), the North Cape theatre (the northern half of the Scandinavian Peninsula), and the Mediterranean theatre (Italy, the Balkans, and part of North Africa).

Although striving to be as realistic as possible, the game was noted for a certain degree of artistic freedom - within the scope of a military sim. One of the available campaigns was a somewhat implausible scenario that recreated a conflict between a Soviet and an American Carrier Battle Group in the 1980s, designed to play like the historic battles of the Pacific War. One particular mission sent you out to investigate an unknown contact, which turned out to be a classic sci-fi flying saucer. It was also possible to encounter a lost formation of TBF Avengers in a Bermuda Triangle homage and, in the North Cape theatre, a dragon.

In 1995 Microprose released Fleet Defender Gold. This version was Windows 3.1 compatible, included two new campaign theatres and 6 new campaigns, a mission builder, and some multimedia features, as well as bug fixes.

Its distant cousin is Jane's F/A-18, which reuses a lot of work completed in Jane's F-15 by ex-Microprose employee Andy Hollis.

Fleet Defender was one of the last flight simulations produced exclusively for DOS and Windows 3.1. It was playable in Windows 95 and Windows 98, but only if the user exited Windows and played in DOS-mode. Fleet Defender can be played today using an old PC, or a DOS Emulator, such as DOSBox.



  1. A Player'S Guide To Fleet Defender
  2. Fleet Defender game manual

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