It has been a while since the last update about my setup. I planned to write a couple of articles about the TFT for the F-14 and the completed set of RIO panels but between lack of time, missing key binds in-game and other reasons, I never completed them.
Any way, rather than working on my panels, I did some QoL changes. In brief:
- New Kneeboard
- Track IR v5
- Monitor Arm
Until a few months ago I used a clipboard held in position with Velcro straps, now I am using a much better built A6 flight kneeboard (I am also reworking the layout of some DCS Kneeboard pages to increase their visibility, I may share them once done).
The plan is reducing the number of in-game pages (now almost 20!), placing some of them in the physical kneeboard, especially the ones that does not require constant use or prolonged checks in the cockpit. For example the tables for the Ripple delivery of Mk82 and Mk82 SE, the RIO-Pilot cross-checks or the Pressure conversion table.
Track IR v5
Definitely a recommended purchase!
In case you are wondering, moving the monitor was not practical due to the size of the base and the weight.
I just realized I never did a proper overview of my devices, so here we go!
Arduino Panels (Arduino Leonardo – ATmega32U4)
Arduino Column – White
Nothing fancy, the idea was taking advantage of the Virpil T-50 mount.
It is very simple, no Master switches (I did not think about that back then) but it works very well.
Radio Box – Blue
I updated the firmware a bunch of times, eventually I replaced the standard buttons with 3-way latched switches (using Voltage dividers) and I coded the Master Arm to control a total of 4 buttons with a timer. The idea was lifting the cover before acting on the switch itself. It comes useful on the F-5 and the F-14, for example.
Ancient video with ancient webcam:
The buttons always on are the master arm and the 3-way latched switches.
Auxiliary Box – Purple
It is the first panel I built where an analogue pin commands multiple buttons.
This is a short video of the very first version:
And this is from the latest version:
F/A-18 UFC | PRTz | PVI800 – Yellow
As the previous panel, this one features a Master switch (2-way in this case), doubling the number of functions available.
This is the video of its first test:
F-14 Radar Panel – Green
This panel provides 121 logical functions, thanks to a 2-way Master switch.
This is the panel I use the most. If the number of functions sounds unrealistic, consider that every 3-way momentary works as a 3-way latched, therefore controlling three buttons each. There are six of them, for a total of 24 buttons. Each encoder controls three buttons as well, CW, CCW, Push. There are 7 encoders, for a total of 21 buttons. Now double them up, due to the 2-way Master switch.
When the Master switch is selected, the knobs control the DL channels and the 3-way switches control the most important piece of hardware in the cockpit. The tape player!
F-14 RIO Toolbox – Red
This panel does not have a Master Switch, it provides already a plethora of functions:
Its job is to provide a place for all those functions not related to the radar, but that are used very often anyway: from VSL to Stab to the TCS zoom level, TID controls and the Countermeasures.
A big issue was dealing with the lack of key binds when the F-14 hit the Early Access. This is how I had to implement the rotary encoders to control the TID, for example:
Somewhat convoluted, but it works! 🙂
Discarded Royal Air Force Jaguar TACAN
This is the result:
I covered this work in two articles and the firmware I wrote is freely available for download:
TFT (Arduino Uno + DCS-BIOS)
This TFT dialogues with DCS via Arduino Uno and DCS-BIOS. It is, de facto, just another means of displaying information.
I wrote a simple firmware for the F-14 RIO as well (the one shown in the picture). Its main purpose was to calculate the A-Pole by detecting the missile launch. It worked like a charm, using a parabolic function empirically determined. This function is now pointless, since the TTI indicator is working correctly. Other functions include the TACAN distance (only the units, useful for Yardstick), current Heading with ±45° offsets until the reciprocal heading. It also displays the status of the IFF, since one of the rotaries in-game was bugged (it should have been fixed now) and I hate the SRS Overlay. Lastly, it shows current time and time since the start of the mission, useful for coordination, TOT and so on.
7″ 800×600 LCD
I placed Velcro around the LCD. When I play as RIO it holds a clipboard, when I’m piloting depends on the module (pics from this article):
A have a number of other devices collected through the years, these are the ones I am using at the moment:
- 3x Thrustmaster MDF. One is visible in the picture above, mounted near the throttle, the second is mounted over the RIO Radar Panel and the third is attached to the LCD by means of Velcro.
They are one of the few commercial devices I really recommend: they are cheap and provide a ton of buttons.
- Virpil T-50 HOTAS, the S/N is < 200, I bought them in 2017 before Virpil became as popular as it is now, and they are really great. Unfortunately I was one of the victims of the dreaded threat locker they used to block the cams initially and I had to send the base back for repairs.
- CH Pro Pedals. CH is great, full stop. I loved their programming software, I used to set up virtual devices and macros with it with ease. Until 2017 I was “fully CH” but after 16-17 years the pots started to fall apart. However, the Pro Pedals stoically resists, after ~15 years.
Well, besides the four encoders waiting for ED/HB, the only upgrade I’m looking forward to is the GPU. My non-Ti 1070 suffers in the Syria map in certain conditions. It ran 1080p very well, but 3440×1440 it’s too much for it.