How far can you see an aircraft in real life anyway?
Below is a graph from data generated by the US Navy. Getting a visual on another aircraft depends on its aspect towards your position, off course. If the other aircraft is flying towards you, the more difficult will be to detect it. It's kind of terrifying that a small aircraft such as the MIG-21 flying towards you can be detected at 2 miles! Anyway, the point of this chart is that if you are flying a combat flight simulator with labels, you may want to ask if the labels' appearance on the virtual skies depends on the aspect of the aircraft.
Using labels in simulated air combat negates the use of an important skill: visual search (link opens a pdf document). Pretty much like the ground warriors are trained to scan systematically the terrain ahead, pilots train to scan the skies. Alas, our brains and eyes have evolved to hunt preys and evade predators in the plains ... Not aircraft in the skies. It takes training to find something in the vastness of the airspace around you, even when it is located within the ranges specified in the chart above. If labels are activated, a deliberate and systematic visual scanning is not needed.
I found the use of the visual scanning technique described in the paper above mildly useful in LockOn Modern Air Combat. At least is useful to develop some discipline on where to look and how long to look at each field of view. Just for fun, I edited a quick mission where I flew a MIG-29 against a computer-controlled F-14. The reason I chose the MIG-29 is because is a sleek fighter and very forgiving to my piloting skills. The F-14 ... Well is a damn big aircraft and I just wanted to maximize my chances of seeing something.
|AIM-54C, the radar-guided air to air missile from hell.|
|Hint: draw an imaginary line in the HUD between the radar box and the "ILU" symbol.|
|Engaged defensive! The AIM-54C has started its dive towards me.|