In March 1992, Baron von Helton created Jagdgeschwader I “Richthofen” (JG I), an Online Cyber-Squadron dedicated to playing Sierra’s original Red Baron flight simulator.
Named after the historical Flying Circus, JG I “Richthofen” holds the distinction of being the first “German” Online Cyber-Squadron and the third oldest Online Cyber-Squadron on the Internet. Only the Arabian Knights (formed in 1991) and the Wing Walkers (formed in early 1992) are more senior.
JG I “Richthofen” was of course ahead of its time. When JG I was founded, the Internet was still in its infancy and the idea of “online gaming” was an extremely new concept. Sierra’s Red Baron, after all, did not come with multiplayer functionality. However, there was the ImagiNation Network (INN), and because of INN’s existence, Red Baron Online was born.
Owned by the Sierra Network (TSN), the INN was an innovative multiplayer on-line gaming system that would allow people to play cards, board games, golf, trivia, Red Baron, and even be tutored on your homework. By today’s standards, it was archaic. For the day, however, it was cutting edge.
In between 1994 and 1995, AT&T would purchase TSN, making changes and enhancements to the original layout of INN. Then, on 6 August 1996, America Online (AOL) acquired INN. While AOL would run the network for another two years, before eventually closing it down in early 1998, one of the first services they would close was Red Baron Online.
On 31 August 1996, Red Baron Online was shut down. With no outlet with which to fly together, JG I stopped functioning. During this period, many JG I pilots continued to fly under their JG1_ squadron names, mostly in other sims such as WarBirds or Air Warrior’s WW1 Arena. However, there was no real organization it. The drying up of the WW1 flight sim genre forced JG I to disband in all but name.
In June 1997, with the announcement that Sierra On-Line was developing a sequel to the original Red Baron simulation, JG I pilots started reconvening on The Rook’s Unofficial Red Baron Page. Because of the incredible interest in seeing JG I take to the air once again, it was decided to officially re-organize the squadron, once again under the leadership of Baron von Helton.
At first, JG I flew missions offline. Using the original Red Baron Mission Builder, missions were exchanged between members via email. Then, JG I had the opportunity to get involved with the open beta for Simguild’s Flying Circus.
While Flying Circus, as a game, is often forgotten when recounting the history of online simulations, it does represent a very important milestone for JG I. Previously, as with INN, air battles were restricted to 2v2 affairs, never allowing the squadron to fully fly with itself. With Flying Circus, however, JG I was finally able to field up to 20 pilots at once, allowing the squadron to fly with a large section of its official roster. This, along with the games enhanced features, dramatically changed how JG I both flew and fought.
JG I would fly Simguild’s Flying Circus almost exclusively until Red Baron II was released on 30 October 1997. By 2 December 1997, the majority of JG I was once again flying on a Sierra owned online gaming system, this time called the World Opponent Network (WON.net) area. However, WON.net was plagued by terrible problems, and many JG I pilots found themselves instead flying off of Kali (a multiplayer emulator).
On 24 January 1998, Baron von Helton officially retired from JG I. JG I was now comprised of over 50 pilots, many of whom had very different ideas as to how JG I should adapt and evolve. The main conflict during this period was over whether JG I should be a “multi-sim” squadron, flying both Flying Circus and Red Baron II, or whether it should instead dedicate itself solely to one game over another.
Citing Red Baron II’s poor flight models, as well as the continuing problems with WON.net, about half of the squadron wanted to see JG I exclusively dedicate itself towards Simguild’s Flying Circus. The schism that resulted reduced JG I to approximately 18 Red Baron II pilots, as many of the Flying Circus advocates left JG I in order to join or start new squadrons.
Despite the internecine conflict, JG I continued to grow. In June 1998, JG I was the first World War One cyber-squadron to create a dedicated ground attack wing. At first called Bogohl 1, this group was re-designated Schlasta 2, and specialized in multi-functional bombing, reconnaissance, escort and ground attack duties, much like the real Schlachtstaffeln did during the First World War. Schlasta 2 was eventually demobilized in November 2001.
JG I also had the honor of being involved in the beta testing of Red Baron 3D, which was eventually released on 27 October 1998. Red Baron 3D, a heavily patched version of Red Baron II, fixed the majority of problems found within the original game, and as a result, JG I’s numbers swelled.
In March 1999, JG I participated in its first “war tournament”. JG I flew alongside the KA7 squadron, and against the Wing Walkers, the Lafayette Escadrille (LE) and the RAF 209. In April of that same year, JG I became involved in the “Great War” tournaments, hosted by the RAF and JG2.
It was also in April 1999, when the “Stabs Offiziere der Flieger von JG 1” (Stofl) was officially founded. The Stofl (then called the SODF), was designed to consist of the Jastaführers (Jasta commanders) and the Geschwaderkommandeur of JG I so that they could vote on matters ranging from promotions, medals, commendations, and various other intra-squadron matters.
On 9 October 1999, JG I’s Jastaführers began work on a homegrown online tournament called Flanders In Flames (FIF). Now legendary within the World War One online community, Flanders In Flames was first laid down under the leadership of Ernst von Leep and Paul Lowengrin.
This tournament was designed to be as realistic as the Red Baron 3D game would allow, recreating authentic First World War dogfights and aircraft match-ups. Key components were an emphasis on two-seater missions and the repercussions of lost resources on both supply and mission capabilities.
In December 1999, Flanders In Flames I was flown, with JG I and the Lone Wulff squadron fighting against the Wing Walkers and the Lafayette Escadrille. Flanders In Flames I was followed in quick succession by Flanders In Flames II through Flanders In Flames V, with “Flanders In Flames V: Bloody April” being flown in June 2001. Eventually, the Flanders In Flames event would bring new aircraft, new graphics and new flight models into the Red Baron 3D community.
By the Fall of 2001, the Red Baron 3D community had started to shrink at an alarming rate. This was primarily due to the release of Oleg Maddox’s IL-2 Sturmovik. However, there were other related factors as well. During this time, JG I continued to host and fly the Flanders In Flames event, as well as take part in the “One Life to Live” event hosted by SE Aetos. However, overall participation within the squadron started to drop off.
Some within JG I felt that the squadron should branch out to fly other non-WW1 sims. While others felt that JG I needed to stay true to its roots, and only fly Red Baron 3D.
Worried about having another schism, similar to what happened in 1998, the Stabs Offiziere der Flieger (Stofl) made the then controversial decision to allow JG I pilots to belong to and form their own IL-2 units. However, it was decided that the core of JG I would remain solely dedicated to the World War One-era, and therefore to Red Baron 3D.
Thus, with the blessing of JG I’s Rittmeister, Paul Lowengrin, and under the leadership of Leonard Strickland (better known within the IL-2 community as II./JG1_Hartmann), thirteen JG I pilots created an extension of JG I Richthofen within the IL-2 community. Founded in December of 2001, they called themselves II.Gruppe Jagdgeschwader 1 “Oesau” (II./JG 1).
This new World War Two group would have its own command structure, its own pilots, and its own autonomy. However, it would still remain a part of the greater JG I family. This created the “one Jagdgeschwader, two squadrons” framework that JG I would operate under for the next five years. Two groups, united by a common history, jointly working together to carry on the traditions first set down in March 1992.
Soon after forming, II./JG 1 “Oesau” quickly established itself as one of the largest virtual groups within the greater IL-2 Sturmovik community. Duplicating the organizational structure of the historical fighter unit, virtual II./JG 1 composed itself of one command flight (called Stab II./JG 1), and three Jagdstaffeln (fighter squadrons). These Jagdstaffeln were: 4./JG 1, 5./JG 1, and 6./JG 1. II./JG 1’s first Gruppenkommandeur (commander) was II./JG1_Hartmann, and its first Gruppen Adjutant (executive officer) was II./JG1_Klaiber.
During this early period, II./JG 1 also received its first experiences with “dead-is-dead” competitions within IL-2. Many of these early campaigns were created using the BADC (Bourne Again Dynamic Campaign) software. These events were also international, with extremely large participation from the greater IL-2 community. Chief among these early tournaments were: the Virtual Eastern Front (VEF), Operation Morsky (OM), Iron Skies (IS), the Virtual Eastern Front 2 (VEF2), the Virtual Western Front (VWF), Bellum War (BW), and the Czech War (CW). Most of these events were run between 2002 and 2005.
It was also during these early years that Paul Lowengrin, Rittmeister of JG I “Richthofen” and advising officer to II./JG 1, created the Dynamic Campaign Generator (DCG) for IL-2. Based off of his work with Combat Flight Simulator 2, DCG became a essential program for anyone interested in creating dynamic missions and campaigns for both single player careers and multiplayer games.
In March 2003, 1C: Maddox Games released IL-2 Sturmovik: Forgotten Battles. A sequel / add-on to the original IL-2 game, Forgotten Battles focused on the Soviet-Finnish Continuation War, adding many new aircraft, and greater overall functionality to the game. Within the year, another add-on was released. Called the Ace Expansion Pack, it further expanded the core IL-2 simulation with several new planes, and long awaited Western European battlefields.
2003 was a year of great change and growth for II./JG 1. Klaiber officially became the second Gruppenkommandeur in March of that year, and Hartmann retired from the Gruppe due to an increasingly hectic real life. Around the same time, 4./JG 1 was converted into an official training squadron for new members entering the Gruppe, and the command first created the position of Training Officer.
In December 2003, II./JG 1 became involved with the Forgotten Skies (FS) tournament. Organized and coordinated by Recon, Forgotten Skies was an unofficial merging of two previous events – Iron Skies (IS) and Forgotten Wars (FW). Forgotten Skies based much of its campaign generation on Lowengrin’s DCG, and proved to be a very popular event that would run nonstop until its eventual termination in 2009.
By March 2004, II./JG 1 commanders began work on their own homegrown tournament, similar to Richthofen’s Flanders In Flames. Originally called “Clash of Eagles”, after the brief JG1-organized Red Baron 3D event, it was finally decided to call it the Clash of Titans Online War. The first Clash of Titans, called COT I, was developed by II./JG1_RivRat and II./JG1_vonSchpam. It represented a joint effort by the entire Gruppe, and pulled in many of the varied talents of the membership. COT I was hosted on the Prokhorovka map, and attempted to be as historically accurate as the game allowed. It was run as a “dead-is-dead” style event, and included many of our old Red Baron foes, like the Wing Walkers and the RAF 74.
By October 2004, 1C: Maddox Games released Pacific Fighters. Promising to be the first of many Pacific-based add-ons to IL-2, Pacific Fighters proved to be a problem for the group. As a “German” Gruppe, it was unclear what we would do in a Naval theater that did not involve the Luftwaffe.
After much discussion, it was decided that II./JG 1 should form a U.S. Navy aspect for use in all Pacific Fighters events. Originally called VF-1 “High Hatters”, this alternate II./JG 1 was soon renamed VF-9 “Cat O’ Nines” (Fighter Squadron 9). VF-9 then morphed into CVG-9, as the group added VB-9 “Bombing Bunnies” (Bombing Squadron 9) and VT-9 (Torpedo Squadron 9). The idea being to recreate the full carrier group found on the USS Essex (CV-9) from 1943 to 1944.
The CVG-9 aspect of II./JG 1 was short-lived, however. It soon became apparent that the Pacific Fighters add-on to IL-2 was not going to be pursued by 1C: Maddox Games. This was mostly due to legal troubles that had erupted between Ubisoft (the European-based publisher) and Northrop-Grumman (the original manufacturer of most of the U.S. based aircraft). With the demise of Pacific Fighters, the need for CVG-9 quickly faded, and the aspect was permanently mothballed by early 2005.
Undaunted by the failure of CVG-9, II./JG 1 turned its focus back to the Clash of Titans event. COT II was run in December 2004, and was again coordinated by RivRat and vonSchpam. Called “The Channel Raid” event, it was based off of the Battle of Dieppe, which took place in August 1942. As with COT I, COT II was a “dead-is-dead” style event that strove for historical accuracy.
By early 2005, II./JG 1 had joined FISC. FISC (Full Immersion Squadron Community) was an attempt to coordinate various independent squadrons within the greater IL-2 community in order to train and compete at higher difficulty settings. It was not a tournament, but a collective, and FISC helped facilitate the growth and spread of various online events within IL-2. Unfortunately, FISC went inactive circa 2012.
Around this time, II./JG 1 also started becoming heavily involved with the Scorched Earth Online War (SEOW), which was a persistent coop campaign system. Using this system, II./JG 1 flew numerous official and unofficial campaigns against many different squadrons.
By April of 2005, 4./JG 1 stopped operating as a training squadron, and was converted into a full-time JaBoStaffel (fighter-bomber squadron). It was re-designated 4.(JaBo)/JG 1 to reflect it’s new roll.
Then, mid-summer of 2005, JG I “Richthofen” gave control of its day-to-day operations to II./JG 1. With that, JG I “Richthofen” completely merged with II.Gruppe Jagdgeschwader 1, ending the “one Jagdgeschwader, two squadrons” framework which had served the group so well.
JG I “Richthofen” then went into a torpor, waiting for a new World War One simulation to be a true heir to the classic Sierra Red Baron games.
Clash of Titans III (COT III) was officially hosted in August of 2005. COT III was a more complete dogfight based tournament than what had come before. It was primarily created by vonSchpam and II./JG1_Pritzl, and heavily used Lowengrin’s ever-evolving DCG.
The tournament was based around the Battle of France, and introduced the concept of Renown to online events. Pilots with long streaks would gain more points for their team, while at the same time becoming more valuable targets to the opposing team. This helped inject some realism to the way people flew, and elemental tactics became vital to all participating pilots.
In March 2006, Clash of Titans IV was run. vonSchpam and Pritzl again coordinated the event. COT IV represented a perfecting of the Clash of Titans rule-system, and based much of its structure off of COT III. It was a “dead-is-dead” style event, and included a large number of the North American squadrons. The campaign was Normandy 1944, and much time was spent trying to get things as historically accurate as possible.
Despite the success of COT IV, coordinating the tournament while organizing the Gruppe became far too difficult, and COT IV would be the last Clash of Titans event run until 2009.
In March 2007, IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946 was released. 1946 represented a culmination of all previous versions of IL-2 into one compilation. 1946 also introduced many new World War II aircraft, as well as prototype aircraft, post-war aircraft, new maps and even new campaigns. Since its release, 1946 has become the gold standard by which other WW2 flight sims are judged, and over the last few years, development of the game has continued under the direction of Team Daidalos.
In July 2008, 6./JG 1 was deactivated, and all fighter pilots were concentrated within 5./JG 1. 4.(JaBo)/JG 1 continued to act as a home for dedicated fighter-bomber pilots. This move was done to help streamline the Gruppe’s overall organization.
The Clash of Titans: Northern Lights tournament was then run in April 2009. Coordinated by II./JG1_Krupinski, COT: Northern Lights represented a rebirth of the Clash of Titans event. Northern Lights had new rules, a new system of play, and also new focuses. Using a heavily modified version of Lowengrin’s DCG, the tournament was based off of the historical air battles which took place over Murmansk in May to June 1942. Northern Lights would prove to be the last IL-2: 1946 tournament hosted by II./JG 1.
By October 2010, all pilots from both 4.(JaBo)/JG 1 and 5./JG 1 were consolidated into 6./JG 1.
In 2010, the Ghost Skies (GS) tournament was created out of the ashes of the Forgotten Skies tournament. II./JG 1, as well as other “full switch” squadrons, was instrumental in its creation. Like Forgotten Skies before it, Ghost Skies was originally build around Lowengrin’s DCG. However, the Ghost Skies tournament eventually adapted it, creating their own dynamic campaign system. The first Ghost Skies event was Kursk. Following that, Ghost Skies would run a new campaign every few months. Over the years, Ghost Skies coordinated the following campaigns: Slovenia, the Solomons, the Western Front ’44, Italy, Malaya, Kiev, and finally the Eastern Alps.
While Ghost Skies was in full swing, 1C: Maddox Games released IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover in March 2011 to mixed reviews. While the game showed a tremendous amount of promise, it was not the next-generation simulation that the greater IL-2 community was hoping for. Thus, II./JG 1 and Ghost Skies continued to move forward using the older IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946 game.
By October 2012, development by 1C on Cliffs of Dover was officially abandoned, and chief designer Oleg Maddox broke with the company. This was a great disappointment to many within II./JG 1, especially considering that the core Cliffs of Dover game had shown great promise. Thankfully, Team Fusion, a group coordinated by the ATAG squadron, stepped in and is attempting to fix the game through community patches and new content. These official modifications have become instrumental in keeping Cliffs of Dover alive.
Then, in December 2012, 1C announced a joint project with 777 (the developers of the Rise of Flight game). Called IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad, the game was released in a beta stage during the first quarter of 2014. It would be officially released in October 2014. By 2015, an expansion to Battle of Stalingrad was announced, called IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Moscow. This was the first expansion of many, and this entire IL-2 series is now known as IL-2 Great Battles.
It was during this period of changing games, and overall uncertainty, that II./JG 1 became an international Gruppe.
In late 2009, an offshoot of a Czech / Slovak squadron named I./JG 1 asked to join JG I “Richthofen” as Jasta 6. By July 2013, Jasta 6 had officially left I./JG 1, and completely merged into II./JG 1. Jasta 6 became the new 4./JG 1.
Very soon after, 5./JG 1 was reactivated with North American pilots, and all three Staffeln within the Gruppe were once again functional. II./JG 1 experienced a surge of new members, and attempts were made to better integrate the activities of both JG I “Richthofen”, now flying Rise of Flight, and II./JG 1 “Oesau”.
Then, in 2014, Ghost Skies officially ended as an IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946 tournament. The last campaign run by Ghost Skies within 1946 was the Eastern Alps. This was not the end of Ghost Skies, however. In coordination with 3./JG51_Stecher, II./JG1_Schulte and II./JG1_Spies began helping to convert Ghost Skies into a full blown Cliffs of Dover online war. This renewed excitement within the Gruppe, and gave everyone a clear path moving forward.
II./JG 1 then fundamentally evolved on 28 February 2016. A Czech / Slovak squadron named III./JG 1 officially merged into the Gruppe. Simultaneously, our European-based 4./JG 1 received permission from its old parent squadron to rename itself I./JG 1.
Once this happened, what was once “II./JG 1” officially became a full Geschwader called Jagdgeschwader 1 “Oesau” (JG 1). The command staff of the Gruppe was elevated to wing commanders (now called Stab/JG 1), and II./JG 1 became a repository for all North and South American members. Meanwhile, I./JG 1 and III./JG 1 concentrated on providing an outlet for all European members within the Geschwader.
With this adaptation and growth, JG 1 “Oesau” is now composed of over 50 active pilots from more than nine different countries throughout the world.
In November 2014, a third aspect of our squadron was created. Called JG-1 “Fritz Schmenkel”, and based on the historical East German squadron which flew the MiG-15 and the MiG-21, this subgroup was designed to be an avenue for JG 1 pilots to fly the Cold War and Modern aircraft of Digital Combat Simulator World (DCS World). With its inclusion, JG 1 now is involved in all aspects of the last hundred plus years of aviation.