In The Spotlight: Gareth ‘Maverick’ Moore

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve got a treat for you today! I’m interviewing Gareth ‘Maverick’ Moore, he an F-15C virtual pilot, leader of the 104th Fighter Squadron and the designer of the popular Joint Warrior and Red Flag tactical warfare events for DCS World.

Maverick is not an ordinary F-15 driver, he is actually one of the very rare pilots who set foot in the SA’s Hall of Fame and up to now, the one player with most appearances (eight times) as #1 in the history of DCS air-to-air rankings.

So he is one of the very best DCS guys in the world right now. I’m really looking forward to picking his brain today!


Thanks Maverick for accepting this interview, we are glad to have you with us today. If ok, I’m going to get started with the questions.

Hi mate, sure fire away!

Could you start off by talking a bit about Gareth, the flight simmer; How did your first step into the hobby look like? How did you come across combat flight simulators in particular and have you flown other types of simulators aside from the military ones?

It actually all started with Top Gun in more ways than one! Like most of us I seen the film when I was very young and I knew instantly I wanted to be a fighter pilot. Then when I was about 12 years old I started playing Top Gun Fire At Will on the Amega, I was like a kid in a candy shop! A couple of years later I started flying in Microsoft Simulator 98, I bought it with the money I got for my 14th birthday. At first I was so disappointed, because I didn’t know how to do anything and I couldn’t fly the 737 properly. So I taught myself how to actually do everything properly and started flying in single player doing Commercial Flights.
Then I started to do Commercial Flights online with my friends in small lobbies with other people but in 2001 I discovered VATSIM and signed up straight away! I joined British Airways Virtual (BAv) when it was in its infancy, it really was amazing to be flying online with so many other pilots and air traffic controller. I left BAv after a few years flying the Concorde, something which I still do from time to time, but obviously not with BAv, I just go jump on VATSIM and take the old girl for a hop to New York!

I then got involved with the virtual Royal Air Force and was a member for a good few years, I still keep in touch with some of those guys. This is where I got all my first exposure to fighting in an aircraft, we did events with the virtual USAF and virtual US Navy as well as internal training. I honed all my formation and air to air re-fueling skills here, at the time I had no idea how handy they would come in the future!
I spent hundreds of hours flying the Tornado GR4 but I also did a lot more in the C-17 Globemaster with vRAF, all flights took place on VATSIM so it really was a very immersive experience, which I committed a lot of time too. I still hold a few records on VATSIM, I have the most online hours in the world on the C-17 and I’m in the top 5 in the world for Concorde Flight Time, so I know a thing or two about Commercial and Military Aviation.

I didn’t start flying in DCS until about a month after FC3 was released in 2010, I will never forget that day. I had been wishing for a game like DCS for so long, I had spent literally 1000s of hours flying online in VATSIM but never had the chance to actually properly shoot at people in a high threat environment. There are so many limitations to what you can do combat wise in Microsoft Flight Simulator that it always ruined the immersiveness when engaging other aircraft, this was the main reason why I did so much time out of fast jets on VATSIM flying the C-17 and Concorde.
Anyway, like I said, I’ll never forget my first day! I logged onto the vRAF teamspeak and two of the top brass were in a new channel called FC3 and they dragged me in. I still remember their words to me “Gareth you HAVE to check this game out mate, you’d f-ing love this, it has the F-15C in it!”
One of them was kind enough to buy a copy for me and I took my first flight in the SU25A in a simple convoy attack mission in a private server with 3 other friends…. it was a life changing day for me ha, I knew straight away that this was it for me! This was the game I had been waiting for since I was 5 years old watching Top Gun!

When did you realize you were bonded to combat aviation? have you ever considered becoming a real combat pilot?

I’ve wanted to be a Fast Jet Pilot for as long as I can remember, I saw Top Gun when I was 5 as I said and ever since then I’ve walked around looking up for planes! I fell in love with the Tornado GR1/4 after seeing it in action on the news during the first Gulf War and knew I wanted to be a Tornado Pilot.
All my friends and all the other kids at school all knew I was plane daft, I was the kid running around in the football field with my arms out pretending to be a plane when everyone else was kicking a ball, this was when I was like 8 years old though, I wasn’t running around pretending to be a plane in high school!
Anyway to cut a long and sad story short, I got all the grades I needed but was then told I could never be aircrew because I had asthma as a child, even though it no longer affected me. To say that I was devastated in an understatement.

After a while I convinced myself that Commercial would be almost as cool and then sort of focused on becoming an airline pilot. My best friend is actually a 737 pilot, we grew up both wanting to be pilots. Unfortunately for me, the drink and the girls got the better of me and I fell off the Pilot Training wagon while he continued on and earned his Commercial Wings.

I still tell myself I’ll get my act together and get back to the flight training but for now I’m ok with being on the ground.

What do you think about the choices of released or still in the making modules by ED or 3rd party so far?

The past few years have been frustrating for me, I’m a Jet Jock, I don’t care about WW2 or Vintage era aircraft, they don’t float my boat at all. I want the fast jets and won’t settle for anything less. But with that being said I understand the logic behind the aircraft that have been released so far and I always try to keep the long game in mind.
One day we are all going to be flying around in Hornets, Tomcats, Typhoons etc… that’s what I’m holding on for, I do my best not to get ran over by a bus or sent to jail on a daily basis so I can fly these modules when they are released!

What do you think about the multiplayer aspect in DCS in terms of current state, development potential and finally when compared to multiplayer heavyweights although from completely different gaming genres like League of Legends and CounterStrike:Global Offensive?

DCS has so much potential its sickening, this is the route of a lot of my frustrations with it from time to time. The network instability with DCS is well known throughout the online community but it’s much better than it used to be. Although we have recently taken a step backwards with the release of 1.5 in regards to network stability there has been real progress with it over the past two years.
Slowly but surely we are getting back to FC2 levels of clients in servers, something which makes me very happy. I really believe DCS has the potential to be as big online as games like ARMA, we just need a solid Multiplayer Platform in order to do this.
ED have committed to re-doing the Netcode for DCS but this will take time, but I think one day we will say a massive rise in client numbers online.

There is so much stuff we could be doing in this sim that is just going to take time to develop but it really will be worth the wait once it starts coming down the line.

I bet there is a big passion connecting you to the F-15 in particular? why the Eagle over the Russian fighters, is it tied to how they fly in DCS or is there a different reason?

While the Tornado is my favorite jet overall, I’ve been an Eagle fan ever since I was about 14 and found out that it is the loudest Jet Fighter in the world. Growing up I attended the RAF Leuchars Airshow in Scotland every year, the USAF always brought Eagles for the static display and every year they blew me away. Just standing next to them was intimidating.
So on that first day when I found out that I can actually fly the F-15C in FC2 and shoot proper weapons at real people I was over the moon and instantly sold on it!
I remember the first time I got in the F-15C, I said to my vRAF buddies “Guys one day I’m going to be so good in this they are going to call me the f-ing Eagle” 😀

Now if you don’t mind, let’s talk a bit more about the gameplay and tactics in the F-15C and before we get into specifics, how about starting with general advice by stating your top 5 tips on how to get the right and successful mindset when flying PvP in general and the Eagle in particular?

Know your aircraft and weapons cold, you have to understand everything about how your aircraft and weapons work, this way you can make better decisions about how to use them.

Know what is going on around you, Situational Awareness is what keeps you alive, although it only comes with practice. You need to get out there and earn your SA by flying against other people and making mistakes.
Eventually you end up with a 3d map in your head with everyone on it, where they are and what they are doing. This is when you can start making plans about where you are going to position your aircraft and what your opponents will do!

Leave your ego on the ground, accept that 100% you are going to get shot down at some point no matter how good you are, take it like a man and give the opponent a salute!

Treat your opponent with respect, never engage someone thinking you can take it easy on this guy. Don’t play with your food is what I’m saying! Engage everyone like he is an ace in his aircraft and a serious threat to you.

Most importantly … find success from failure! The universe shoots you down for a reason, if you are foolish enough not to look for this reasoning and learn from it you will never move forward. Every time you fail there is a chance to succeed in the future that is given with that failure, it’s your choice to take it or not.
When you fundamentally understand why something didn’t work your fighter pilot brain will hold on to this. And the next time you are in a situation that is slightly similar the memory of the past failure will be presented to you, even if it’s only for a split second and you can make better decisions based from experience and learning.

Could we get into specifics a bit now, I’m going to start off with anxiety and how to manage it in special moments like for instance before recommitting after an extension; how to deal with the thought of possibly being stalked by a silent hunter?

I don’t think this is something most people will admit to but there are times when I am so scared in the F-15C flying online.
Obviously not actually that scared but you know what I mean, the anxiety level is through the roof and the adrenaline is going, sometimes I feel like my heart is actually going to burst through my chest… for me this is the most magical part of DCS, no other game in the world makes me feel like that!

I use this to my advantage, I don’t let it get me carried away and start making stupid decisions, I use all that nervous energy and adrenaline to focus my SA and make sure I know what is going on around me.

The times when I do not know what is going on around me is when things get dangerous. In these situations you always have to have already considered what the worst possible case scenario is before you recommit, and then set yourself up to face that scenario.

If I think I’m being silently stalked the first thing I will do is actually look for the guy over my shoulder, if I can’t see him but I think he is there somewhere I will set myself to recommit at corner speed with my radar already set up at 10nm scan RWS and start pulling to find the guy while watching for any missile launches.

What to do when chasing a target and going in for the kill, it suddenly vanishes behind a valley? When one should press and how and when disengaging would sound wiser?

If I’m chasing someone I stick to one solid rule… ABC, Always Be Climbing. I climb so that he cannot break Line of Sight on me around a hill or valley and then I look ahead to what terrain he is heading into and then predict where he will try to turn and position myself for this.
This way when he makes that dive into the valley thinking he’s going to break line of sight on me I’m just chilling above him screaming down Fox 3 baby!

If I am caught down low and he breaks LOS on me then I’ll just call it based on my SA at the time and what my predictions are for what he is doing. If I think he is going to keep running I’ll usually follow him into the Valley while climbing to avoid the same situation twice.
However if I think he knows exactly where I am and is committing round the hill to set up for BFM I will cash my chips and get out of there, especially against a Flanker.

What to do when an enemy is chasing you at full speed from close range with no idea of his payload ?

This depends on how close he actually is, if you see missiles / guns whizzing past the canopy then yeah it time to start turning and box this one out in a dogfight. But if he is 5nm+ in the back then I drop everything and run if I am caught with my pants down. I’d rather make it back to base and rearm and get back in the fight than get shot down.

Is it always worth jettisoning your payload before a merge with a bandit, what’s the trade off here?

It’s not something I do, although if you go into a merge with Fuel tanks you deserve to be shot down.
I don’t care how bad of a position it puts me in, when I end up in an unexpected Merge I roll my wings level and ditch the bags… every time. I try to keep my weapons simply because I want that option and will take it if I can get it. If I drop them all I am committing to guns only, in a high threat environment this is very risky. 1vs1 is a different story, but in a server or MP event where the bad guy has wingmen it’s a bad move.
I’d rather pop the airbrake out and fire an Aim7 than range him in and take him out with guns in a turning fight. I’m all about killing people as quickly as possible then getting out of there, if the chance comes to put him down with missiles I will take it immediately.

What to do when all of a sudden your RWR screams out a close call while you can’t spot the source or detect it on the radar and seconds later you get a warning of an inbound missile?

Instantly put the threat on the beam, roll the aircraft upside down and pull as hard as you can then depending on close you think the threat is turn into it or away. At this point you have to make a decision about where you think he is, regardless if it is right or wrong you have to decide then start taking actions based on that decision. There is no point in just tumble-weeding and hoping for the best you have to start doing something as you cannot remain in the beam.
If I think he is to close to escape then I will turn into him and check the worst case scenario first, that he is higher than me and coming down. Then I will look at co-altitude then below me, all the time while looking for launches that I can spot. If I see his launch after I turn into him I will go for him in BORE or Vertical Scan mode and get prepared to take him down with me. Sometimes you just know the music is going to stop and there’s nothing you can do to save yourself, I just try to make sure the bad guy goes down with me in these cases.
There are many times however where I have gotten those 2 AMRAAMS off in BORE mode from 3nm and evaded his shots so it’s not always a death sentence to turn into someone who has jumped you, the key thing is make a prediction on where you think he is then start from there rather than turning in mid panic trying to look everywhere at once.

I’ve personally witnessed this several times watching your videos especially during actual combat; you seem to not only be comfortable at taking the F-15 to the very edge of its flight envelope but you also keep it there for as long as needed and the high G tunnel vision does not seem to bother you or alter your SA either. How long did it take you to get to that level of control and situational awareness and how training this department is important according to you?

I realised a long time ago that SA is the key to success, regardless of ability, SA is what keeps you alive, so I have always focused on improving my own SA ever since. Having great SA gives you a massive advantage over your opponent, a lot of the time I do not need to actually see my opponent to know what he is doing, I have already made several predictions about what he is going to do before he does it.

This way when I’m in a situation where I can’t see him for example a High G turn and I’m close to blacking out or I have him in the beam, I’m flying my aircraft to where I predict he is going to be or what I predict he is going to do… most of the time I get it right, but not all the time. It’s at these times I need to use what SA I have to start making more predictions about where he is quickly and find him.

The difference between someone with good SA and someone with great SA is the guy with good SA knows what is going on around him, the guy with great SA also knows what is going on around him but can make predictions about what will happen next that turn out to be accurate.

I got my SA level up by just flying over and over again… I’ve been flying in DCS for over 5 years now, during the first 3 years I flew like a man possessed, you won’t find many pilots in DCS who have more hours flying online in the F-15C that I do. Becoming good in DCS is like anything else you have to practice, practice, practice! This was a crucial part of the learning process for me, as you cannot get better at SA without experiencing failure, so I went out there and got stuck in for better or worse while all the time trying to learn from every success and failure.

Some people will tell you that SA can be trained by someone else… I don’t really agree with this. An instructor can talk you through what you should be doing and throw all the information of the world at you… but that all goes straight out the window as soon as the foxes start flying. Don’t get me wrong, being trained by the right people is a serious advantage however to have great SA you need 100s of hours flying against other people.
You can be trained to deal with realistic air threat scenarios but you can’t be trained for MP PvP Combat in a server with over 50 people all of whom are making their own decisions and not flying to any realistic agenda.

Flying in a busy server puts your SA into overdrive, I’ve been lucky enough to find a home for life in the 104th so I have always been around high client number missions, even way back in FC2 I started flying on the 104th server! Being on a server with lots of other people all trying to kill you forces to think quickly and make as many good decisions as possible under a lot of stress.

This is what I put my success in BVR Combat down to, I don’t have any special flying skills or secret moves.
What I do better than other people is make good decisions very quickly, that’s it!

Many times, you read/hear people saying they do not care about kills or points and that fun is the only factor; do you think there is any fun in dying repeatedly or using unlimited lives and re-spawns to go in there and try to blow stuff up ‘at all costs’ in a simulator like DCS?

It doesn’t bother me to much, I understand that DCS is a lot of different things to people. Where I get my kicks from it will be different to someone else. The great thing about it is that loads of very different people can find enjoyment somewhere from it.

I want as many people to play DCS as possible, we need people at all levels to take part to grow this community and it’s always nice to fight against these kamikazi guys that just keep coming at you.

What does bother me is when people try to tell you what you are doing is not good enough because ‘that’s not how they do it in real life’… I hate that shit. I’m not flying in real life I’m flying in DCS, there is a massive difference!

Which squadrons/pilots you feel are missing in the TvT arena? I mean you see a lot of teams well structured internally, spending time teaching their recruits, yet not taking part in multiplayer events like Red Flag or Joint Warrior, which are supposed to be excellent PvP training opportunities?

Loads but I don’t want to start calling anyone out, in my opinion ego and pride is stopping a lot of people / squadrons taking part.
DCS is a horrible sim for the ego, it brings out the worst in some people, it’s something I regularly have to deal with as the 104th Squadron leader from my Flight Crew and myself.

In competitive PvP Air Combat your ego is your worst enemy, it starts messing with your head and you put way too much pressure on yourself not to get shot down. Then when you do get shot down you totally lose your composure and start ranting blaming everything from your aircraft and the missiles to the net coding and DCS… everything but yourself.
This in turn has a negative effect on everyone else around you and you start dragging people down with your bullshit.

I try to lead by example in the 104th and not let this happen, I preach responsibility and accountability and I hold myself to it.
If I get shot down, no matter what the situation was or what happened it was my fault, the decisions I made leading up to that event is what got me killed, I am responsible for where my aircraft goes not the other guy.

Some people are better at dealing with this than others but I think at some stage in your ‘DCS Career’ you need to address this and leave your ego on the ground and focus on being an asset that can be counted on to do a job rather than a loose cannon who might get it done but will lose his shit if it goes wrong.

I gave up the ghost a long time ago, I realised that no matter how hard I work I’m always going to get shot down at some point, MP Combat is just too dynamic to be right all the time. It doesn’t matter who you are you will end up getting shot down by someone who was just in the right place at the right time.
No one, and I mean no one can consistently fly in packed MP servers or events without getting killed at some point. How you deal with getting shot down and use it as a learning tool is what sets good pilots apart from great ones.

Well thank you so much for your time. I learned a lot and it was really interesting to pick your brain and see your approach to flying in DCS. It’s really refreshing to see someone who enjoys it so much!

And to all our members and guests, thanks for reading! If you have any question/comment to Maverick, please post in the comment section below.

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