Fly Away Simulation

A Review of Prepar3D from Lockheed Martin

Last updated Mon, 10 Feb 2020 21:13:21 GMT
Originally posted on Wed, 27 Jun 2012 07:32:34 GMT

It’s bonanza time for flight simulation fans--there has never been so many different products to play with!  The new Microsoft Flight, X-Plane 10, Prepar3D…

Wait. Prepar..what?

Image shows boats and submarines in Prepar3D, demonstrating the sea aspect to the simulation.
Image shows boats and submarines in Prepar3D, demonstrating the sea aspect to the simulation.

If you are just hearing about it, you are not alone. For years Lockheed Martin has quietly worked on Prepar3D, a new flight simulator designed for training and instruction. Prepar3D (pronounced “prepared”) allows companies and governmental units to create training simulations for air, land and sea.

In 2009, Lockheed Martin purchased the rights to Microsoft ESP, the commercial twin of the popular Microsoft Flight Simulator series. They hired several of the Microsoft developers to help create Prepar3D and develop it for commercial training markets.

For example, military units use Prepar3D to build their operational skills by training in various aircraft and vehicles before entering into real-life combat situations. Airlines and aviation related companies can train pilots and air traffic control staff under a wide variety of flight conditions. Emergency and rescue teams are able to simulate various crisis situations to develop disaster-preparedness skills.

Backwards Compatible

One of the big benefits for Microsoft Flight Simulator users is that all their addons are fully compatible in Prepar3D. Flight simulator fans often have a lot of time and money invested in their favorite program. Lockheed was smart to make sure MFS users can employ their addons in Prepar3D.

A few commenters have suggested that Prepar3D is also a good opportunity for Lockheed to clean up what some refer to as Microsoft Flight Simulator’s “questionable physics,” meaning that they don’t believe that the Microsoft program always delivered an accurate flying experience. For the time being, Prepar3D is often called “smoother” with “better graphics” than FSX by many flight sim forum participants, although an equal number feel the programs are about level in performance.

Constant Evolution

The Prepar3D team has continually added features over time. Recent evolutions include a drag and drop Windows 7 interface, the ability to save multiple monitor settings, millions of kilometers of scenery, better hardware controls including enhancements for fighter pilots, more realistic weather graphics (limitation for textures can now be pegged at up to 4096 x 4096), night vision, internet-based multi-player functionality, and underwater adventures using submersibles and U.S. government coastal bathymetry. 

A fighter jet with high resolution ground textures.

A fighter jet with high resolution ground textures.

Prepar3D currently features almost 25,000 airports worldwide. Unlike most flight simulators, the program offers a number of land and sea vehicles users can utilize. The list of available aircraft includes:

  • P-38 Lightning
  • Beechcraft King Air 350
  • Maule Orion
  • Piper J3 Cub
  • Robinson R22
  • Lockheed P-38 Lightning
  • Beechcraft Baron 58
  • Lockheed Constellation
  • Mooney Bravo

Need to go underwater like James Bond? No problem. Jump in a Neptune Submersible and explore the ocean depths. The real Neptune can go down 750 feet, probably enough for you to escape any “Dr. No” types chasing you.

There are three licenses available for Prepar3D:

  • Professional- Corporations, military divisions and private pilots are examples of organizations and individuals that will benefit from a Professional license.
  • Academic- Universities, aviation schools, and private instructors utilize the Academic license to communicate lessons in avionics, math, science and related disciplines. 
  • Developer Network- a monthly option created in order to help build a community of developers contributing add-ons and related applications. The Network is open to experienced developers as well as those just learning the ropes. Registrants get special software kits, additional vehicles and applications, and access to labs and special opportunities.

User Reaction

Many people were genuinely surprised and excited to learn Lockheed had effectively taken over the Flight Simulator code, even though Lockheed has sent press releases with each upgrade since 2009. There seems to be a lingering dissatisfaction with Flight Simulator despite its overwhelming market dominance. Perhaps some are counting on Prepar3D to rectify perceived shortcomings of the past.

The buzz for Prepar3D is generally positive. Sauron writes in the SimHQ forums, “Well, I got it installed today. And here’s my review: If you care about realism, get it right NOW!”

Michael Martucci, an educator with Oak Ridge High School in Orlando saw the program at a trade show centered around the defense industry. Since then he has been using Prepar3D to help get kids involved in technology. He told the Orlando Sentinel the program, “…has been like a wildfire for getting kids interested in science and math.”

Additional Products

In addition to the core product, users can invest in several additional programs:

  • GeoSketch is a plugin to the popular Google Sketchup 3D modeler. Developers can quickly create 3D models for simulations and textures. These can easily be exported to Prepar3D for final testing.
  • Model Converter converts OpenFlight models from other simulators to the format used by the program.
  • Model Placer lets developers place many buildings, trees and other structures into Prepar3D very quickly. It is designed to work seamlessly with Model Converter.

System Requirements

Lockheed Martin puts a minimum requirement for operating Prepar3D as a Windows XP, Vista or 7 (32-bit) system with a 2.0 GHz processor, 2GB RAM, 20GB HDD,  a Vertex/Pixel Shader Model 3.0 or newer, DirectX9 or newer compatibility, and 1024x768 minimum screen resolution.

Demonstration of buildings and 3D objects in Prepar3D.

Demonstration of buildings and 3D objects in Prepar3D.

Realistically, a flight simulator of this quality demands more power. The company’s recommended set-up is more robust: Windows 7 (64-bit), Quad Core 2.0 GHz (Per Core) +, 4GB+ RAM, 20GB Hard Drive with 2GB for the Software Development Kit, GDDR5 Graphics Card or better with 1.0GB onboard RAM, a Vertex/Pixel Shader Model 3.0 or newer, DirectX9 or newer compatibility, and 1024x768 minimum screen resolution.


Lockheed has an active user forum with almost 8000 members. They can get the latest product news as well as hardware and software support. Developers can showcase their work and get answers to questions on the software development kit and simulation, scenery and mission development. also features a Community Downloads area. This is where they access the Software Development Kit. Members can get additional aircraft like the Lockheed L-749 Constellation and both passenger and cargo versions of the Lockheed L-188 Electra. Scenery choices include airports in China and bathymetry for Lake Ontario. Users can also find repaints like a Nemeth Design Mi-2 and a C-17A Globemaster III. 

Flight Simulator DNA

Prepar3D is designed for training, but its DNA comes from a game created for entertainment and fun, Microsoft Flight Simulator. And Lockheed Martin is, of course, a defense contractor. As demand for their products has ebbed, they are seeking new ways to create revenue. A company spokesperson explained it this way to the Orlando Sentinel, "It shows we're thinking in different ways, which we have to do these days. We're not only thinking about it, but we are backing that up by taking action."

Can Prepar3D help them crack the consumer market? Only time will tell. If early reaction is any indication of the future, Lockheed has a hit on its hand. 

Promotional Video released by Lockheed Martin


A few comments suggest that I should have mentioned the pricing structure.

Lockheed Martin have two tiers, they are priced as follows:

  • Standard Prepar3D License - $199
  • Academic Prepar3D License - $49.95

License comparison page here.

There is also a developer license at $9.95/month which also gives you access to the SDK - more information on this special licence here.

You can grab your copy now over at the Prepar3D store.

Once you've completed the checkout, you can download the software directly from the web - I don't think they offer a CD/shipping service.

Freeware Add-ons/Mods

Boeing 787 freeware P3D add-on.As you may be aware, many of the original FSX freeware add-ons were compatible with Prepar3D (P3D).  However, since Lockheed Martin converted Prepar3D to 64-bit in P3Dv4, some of the previously released FSX mods/add-ons are incompatible - mainly panel gauges and related modules.  To rectify this, we have created a dedicated page for P3Dv4 add-ons over here.  On this page, you will find freeware that is 100% compatible (and tested) with the latest Prepar3Dv4.

Let's see your comments below and don't forget to share!

Download iconDon't forget... We have a huge selection (over 24,000 files) of free mods and add-ons for FSX, P3D & X-Plane in the file library.  Files include aircraft, scenery, and utilities  All are free-to-download and use - you don't even need to register.  Browse on down to the file library here.

Ian Stephens

Ian Stephens

Ian Stephens is a flight simulation industry expert with over 20 years of experience and also has a keen interest in aviation and technology.  Ian spends a lot of his time experimenting with various simulator packages but has a love for Microsoft Flight Simulator X because of the huge selection of add-ons available.  However, Ian also has copies of Prepar3D and X-Plane installed. 

Ian has been writing for Fly Away Simulation for over 9 years.  Should you wish, you can contact Ian via email at


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The content of the comments below are entirely the opinions of the individual posting the comment and do not always reflect the views of Fly Away Simulation. We moderate all comments manually before they are approved.

len brettWed, 27 Jun 2012 11:38:56 GMT

Will it be available for sale on disc? And how much?

AlbertWed, 27 Jun 2012 12:54:04 GMT

It looks great! Where can I purchase it and how much does it cost? Can it be downloaded as an add-on?

Ian StephensWed, 27 Jun 2012 13:51:12 GMT

Thanks for the comments guys, I have updated the article above with pricing information and where to get it.

David murphyWed, 27 Jun 2012 14:09:08 GMT

I am amazed! Thank God for Lockheed; saving the FS code (and some of the staff).

I've been an avid flight simmer for more than a decade, I fly for more than 10 VAs. This is good news for the future of flight sim.

ijWed, 27 Jun 2012 14:54:43 GMT

... but not everything is gold, just because it shines. Try to select a new aircraft on the Prepar3d menu, and compare it with FSX... In this case someone clearly lowered usability and quality on the Prepare3d team.

Ben ClarkWed, 27 Jun 2012 15:20:14 GMT

The only problem you have here is stating "Can Prepar3D help them crack the consumer market? Only time will tell. If early reaction is any indication of the future, Lockheed has a hit on its hand." simply put that cannot currently happen, Lockheed do not have the rights to offer a consumer application, indeed Microsoft specifically prohibited it so unless Lockheed are able to renegotiate their contract it will never become the next mass market flightsim.

Fred DeiterWed, 27 Jun 2012 15:24:23 GMT

I think it would be nice if they had a 30 day trial, I am an avid flight simulator person with all copies that Microsoft made. I can't see spending $200.00 for a program that doesn't have all the things built into it that Flight Simulator X has in it.

Jay D LevineWed, 27 Jun 2012 15:38:50 GMT

I hope it will be compatible with ATC on line, ie Vatsim, FSMP, Pilot and any other online ATC website. I am hoping that this will be the mega Flight sim of all time, with all the realism they can muster. J.Levine Comm Pilot, A&P Mech

JimWed, 27 Jun 2012 16:40:21 GMT

The license agreement prohibits use for individual entertainment. Is this scheduled to change anytime soon?

MarkWed, 27 Jun 2012 18:27:17 GMT

I didn't see anything about a release date or a product link to Lockheed's web you have any of that info?

TomWed, 27 Jun 2012 20:38:24 GMT

Can't we utilize the Acedemic license as we are not going to utilize this for business purposes (not for profit)?

TomWed, 27 Jun 2012 20:42:35 GMT

I think we can use the Educational Licesnse if not for profit. It actually states for use at "home." If you have a student in the home you certainly would qualify... or if you offered its use to a student...

The Educational License States:

Uses • Classroom • Home • Educational programs, such as summer camps and after school programs

Danny HicksWed, 27 Jun 2012 22:01:01 GMT

The pricing plans are fairly relaxed - meaning you can try out Prepar3d using the $10 a month plan to evaluate whether you like it, but even the academic plan has a money back guarantee if it doesn't work they way you want. The plans they share indicate some 1.x versions that will continue to refine the platform, with V2 moving to DirectX 11. Backward compatibility might become an issue, but it seems the Lockheed Martin guys are focussed on developing a simulator that gives developers an engine to create some excellent add-ons. I recently purchased the Academic version and have been most impressed? Still needs a bit of tweaking, but smooth frame-rates and better shaders already means all my FSX add-ons have got a new life. Coupled with the fact they're continuing development means I have to echo the comments that they have a hit on their hands.

Colin WareWed, 27 Jun 2012 22:16:51 GMT

Jim - head over to the Avsim forums where the Prepare3d forum lives. There is a clear explanation about how the "entertainment clause" does not apply to private flight sim enthusiats, and it comes directly from Lockheed Martin.

Fred - sign up for the monthly and see if you like it. You can always cancel.

Simmo WThu, 28 Jun 2012 02:50:55 GMT

Hi, can you please REMOVE THE REFERENCE TO MY SAYING P3D IS THE FUTURE, as I don't believe it is, without significant improvement. My post at

Was a very sarcastic post, saying that because ASN said it was good, xp10 might as well give up...NOT.

IMHO, xp10 and MS Flight and DCS are the future. FSX performance does not take advantage of recent pc tech. If it can, then maybe it does, but I am not hearing that V2 will have a magic bullet in it.

Simon W

Ian StephensThu, 28 Jun 2012 09:30:24 GMT

No problem Simmo, I've removed the reference - apologies for the confusion!

AlbertThu, 12 Jul 2012 00:25:08 GMT

Can Prepar3D be downloaded?

Ian StephensThu, 12 Jul 2012 11:10:35 GMT


Yes, you can download Prepar3D directly from the Lockheed Martin website once you purchase a licence - there is no shipping/boxed edition that I'm aware of at present.

IanMon, 30 Jul 2012 23:42:07 GMT

I have moved completely to P3D and love it, even with the bugs in v1.3. Like most users I am eagerly waiting v1.4 and LM has said it is not far off.

For those thinking of purchasing I suggest you wait for v1.4, and read the forums, as there are plenty of migrators available to shift your FSX addons; sceneries, aircraft and utilities to P3D. While at the same time many developers particularly Orbx and Carenado are now building P3 installers.

CecilSat, 22 Sep 2012 23:56:33 GMT

Is there a way to remove unwanted aircraft? Every time I delete a particular aircraft, Prepar3D initiates a recovery and re-installs them again.

Ken WebsterSat, 22 Dec 2012 23:24:49 GMT

I have FS2004 in my PC, how can I purchase Prepar 3D and will it be like FS2004 where I can fly the aeroplanes? I live in Sheffield in the U.K.

Tom HankserSun, 30 Dec 2012 22:54:34 GMT

Prepar3d is nothing more than a crippled modification of Microsoft Flight Simulator X.

ArthurMon, 07 Jan 2013 21:14:20 GMT

Okay I paid 200 bucks and got it thinking I am getting what shows in the video but instead I got FSX on steroids lol. Which is fine I was getting tired of FSX crashing anyway but flying the fighter to the army jeep is what caught my attention. I thought you can acually switch from flying to driving and so on but all I want to know is how and what software is being used in the video to control the views? Overall its a good software.

Rob EngviksonFri, 11 Jan 2013 19:32:15 GMT

So is this Prepare3d ONLY for Students or Govenment organisations? I am simply a massive Flight Sim fan, and want the most realistic flight sim available, I love Xplane 10 but the ATC is abysmal, FSX is great but the physics are not brilliant although with addons its not too bad. I see a lot of addons being made now that are Prepar3D compatible, so am interested in upgrading...hence my question, is it available to General gamers like me that want to fly planes in a realistic simulator, or do i have to be a student pilot...etc...

Hope that all makes sense...

stevaeThu, 13 Jun 2013 12:52:43 GMT

well i hate to be the wet blanket at the party, but that price is ridiculous. i have had fsx since it first came out, and i think i paid 40-50 dollars for it. why pay four times that for essentially the same thing, with a few tweaks? i was very happy to hear that LM decided to continue this excellent piece of software, until i saw the price. at the very least, you should offer a low price upgrade price for those of us who have kept this software in the mainstream, which i'm sure is what gave LM the incentive to invest in it. there should always be some reward for loyalty.

Dr. MabuseSun, 13 Apr 2014 17:44:16 GMT

Excellent flight-SIM, I concur!

My son just got it (from some Swedish provider; The Pirate e-bay, or what they call it..) I think a demo or promotional of sorts, but it has an amazing amout of content.

Anycase: Cudos to the developers. I especially like the inclusion of the Submarine and similar alternative scenarios. Adds a lot of depth to the experience. And seen from a professional standpoint I am stunned by the amount of realism they manage to offer, given that it on some points could go neck-and-neck w. a training-sim.

With best wishes,

/Dr. Mabuse

Dr. MabuseThu, 17 Apr 2014 23:22:32 GMT

Excellent flight-SIM, I concour!

My son just got it (from some Swedish provider; The Pirate e-bay, or what they call it..) I think a demo or promotional of sorts, but it has an amazing amoutn of content.

Anycase: Cudos to the developers. I especially like the inclusion of the Submarine and similar alternative scenarios. Adds a lot of deapt to the experience. And seen from a professional standpoint I am stunned by the amount of realism they maneage to offer, given that it on some points could go neck-and-nect w. a training-sim.

With best wishes,

/Dr. Mabuse

jackSun, 10 Aug 2014 08:19:53 GMT

The income from this product isn't going to cover their F-35 program disaster.

Thomas DickersonTue, 09 Sep 2014 12:29:42 GMT

I am a student pilot (Cessna 172) who ran out of flying lessons $$$, but plan to get my private pilot certificate when the funds needed to complete my training are available. I am also a long-time flight-simmer (started with FS98). I continue to practice my limited flying skills on FSX, but am seriously considering buying Prepar3D, because Froogle thinks the program is a big improvement over FSX. I agree based on what I have seen. My question is will the Academic version satisfy my needs?

Mark WSat, 13 Dec 2014 23:09:06 GMT

I have been a long time FS flyer, since DOS. FSX, with an addon and FSX Flight, will run with ForeFlight. Outstanding! Is this possible with Prepar3D. The FF plugin redefines flight planning and execution. Without this capability, Prepar3D doesn't have much appeal.

Harvett BradfordMon, 07 Mar 2016 08:37:41 GMT

Prepar3D is ,a bit pricey but well worth it, It has always been hard for me to make changes , I can recall my Boxed version of MSFX just before I went completely over to the steam platform, you should have seem me having a fit. Now I only want to use Prepar3D purchase it and you well see why , I am quite use to FSX graphic, the OOMS,ECT. But when I purchased Prepare3D all I can tell you is Wow I thought I had brought a new computer. Take my word you too well love it.

Stanford KenyonMon, 21 Aug 2017 12:46:47 GMT

I've been using MSFS for over 15yr's. What I'd like is the 64-bit platform, and be able to use my PMDG, Carenado, planes and my Pay ware airport scenery. If I buy Academic, are there things left out that you get in Professional. Is it purely training levels? Thanks, Stanford

Marc DrouinSun, 05 Nov 2017 01:12:32 GMT

With FSX I have to use 2D to make manual radio frequency change (ex: ILS approach). Can we do likewise with Prepare 3D in that version? Is it complicated to download most of FSX aircrafts on Lockheed flights sim?

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