|Tuesday, June 15 Report|
|Hands-on: Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog Controllerby Joe Keefe and Stephanie *Panther* Lessentine|
On Tuesday night Thrustmaster hosted a preview event to unveil the HOTAS Warthog. This new HOTAS is a metal replica of an A-10C stick, throttle, and throttle panel, and offers an impressive array of features. It is officially licensed by the U.S. Air Force.
Thrustmaster’s presentation began with a display of HOTAS Warthog prototype components, featuring a plastic throttle assembly shell and three stages of stick handle bodies (molded resin, unpainted metal, and near-finished product).
Buttons and Axes
The HOTAS Warthog stick looks very similar to the Cougar stick, although there have been a few changes in the button and switch construction. There are four buttons, an 8-way hat, and three four-way hats (including one with a push-down action). For those familiar with the Cougar, the S2 fire button has been redesigned, the paddle switch now is a replica F-16 paddle, and HAT 4 has a push-down action. Since there is no paddle switch in the A-10C stick, the paddle switch is removable in order to create a true replica. Thrustmaster has gone to great lengths to not only replicate the look of an A-10C HOTAS, but also the feel; for example, the trigger is designed for a 7 N/mm spring constant until the first stage activates, then 22 N/mm for 4.5mm until the second stage activates.
The split throttle has one button, one 8-way hat, one 4-way hat with integrated pushbutton, four 3-position switches, and a mini-mouse controller. The throttles feature a clever lifting system for the detents, similar to the finger lifts found on real throttles. The idle detent is fixed and non-removable, while the afterburner detent can be eliminated with the simple removal of two thumbscrews, the reversal of an internal piece, and the replacement of the thumbscrews. The throttles cannot be moved through the detents unless the throttles are lifted (unless excessive force is applied), making them a true mechanical stop. There is no electrical response of the throttle axes below the idle detent, and the detents are silent.
The throttle panel has two buttons, five 2-position switches, four 3-position switches, and a trim axis. Altogether the HOTAS Warthog has 51 action buttons, two POV hats, one mouse/slew control, and one trim wheel. All of the axes use non-contact magnetic sensors featuring Thrustmaster H.E.A.R.T. (Hall Effect AccuRate Technology). The two stick axes are 16-bit, the two throttle axes are 14-bit, and the slew control is 10-bit.
The HOTAS Warthog has a total weight of over 14 pounds. Some of this weight comes part and parcel with hefty metal construction, and some has actually been intentionally added to the product to create stable platforms. The stick handle is removable via the same knurled knob used on the Cougar, and in fact the Cougar handle and the HOTAS Warthog handle are completely interchangeable; if you have a Cougar with modded gimbals or a force-sensing mod, you can use it with the HOTAS Warthog stick handle (minus the push-down functionality of Hat 4).
Thrustmaster was being rather hush-hush regarding the stick gimbals, but we believe them to comprise a helical spring and a ball joint. There is only one hall sensor in the stick base; it is a multi-dimensional sensor that reads the stick position. At the base of the gimbal can four screws attach to a large iron base plate. The plate is easily removable for mounting the stick in a home cockpit.
Members of the Virtual Thunderbirds were on hand to provide skilled demonstrations of the HOTAS Warthog in use, including their famous formation flying skills. Here Rick “Ray” Charles tries to hang onto the wing of Thomas “Teej” Kopp during a formation landing.
The throttle base is large and heavy, and a few pounds of metal are included in the design to decrease its tendency to lift when the throttles are moved. Throttle tension is adjustable via a wheel located on the top of the throttle base. The switches on the throttle base are solid and have a very satisfying click when they are moved. Most of the lettering on the throttle base is backlit in green, and the lighting state should eventually be controllable in the programming software.
Close formation flying requires immense concentration and a series of never-ending adjustments from the wingmen. Here “Ray” jockeys the throttle maintaining fingertip formation.
The HOTAS Warthog includes no provisions for connection of rudder pedals, and for now Thrustmaster has no plans to make USB rudder pedals.
With the revealing of the HOTAS Warthog comes the announcement of new controller programming software written by Thrustmaster, T.A.R.G.E.T. (Thrustmaster Advanced pRogramming Graphical EdiTor). T.A.R.G.E.T. is unifying software that supports multiple Thrustmaster controllers, including the HOTAS Warthog, the T.16000M, the Cougar MFD, and even the 10-year-old Cougar.
T.A.R.G.E.T. offers multiple layers of programming options, from simple drag-and-drop assignments of keyboard commands to full-blown programming in a language similar to C, complete with header files. T.A.R.G.E.T. also offers the ability to combine controllers into a virtual controller, which is useful for titles that do not support multiple controllers. This is especially important since the HOTAS Warthog’s stick and throttle connect via separate USB cables.
The two images below from the presentation show the layout of the software.
Watch for more information soon about the Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog.
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