May-Jun

 

Welcome to the Bi-monthly  newsletter.

In this issue the conversion of the Suncom SFS HOTAS to USB.

The  newsletter will give you insight into the different types of flight simulation, technical articles, tips and reviews.

We will also look at the products, accessories, hardware, software and just about anything that makes the world of flight simulation more realistic and enjoyable.

The newsletter will also keep you abreast of what other enthusiast are doing in the community.

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A Plug .........
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Check out our products at www.kwikpit.com  thank you for your patronage.

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The KwikPit Team,
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 FUSBA Bringing An Old HOTAS Back To Life

 

                               
  
Suncom SFS USB Mod

A Suncom SFS throttle and stick was shown in one of  the  HomeFlite configurations. In the last Newsletter I stated that is was an old 90's style unit that uses a game port and a PS/2 keyboard port. The joystick sends button presses as keystrokes and is programmable. What made the unit unique was that it emulated the F-15 fighter jet including the split throttle.

As stated before in the earlier article split throttle units can cost from $200 to $500 today. In all fairness they do offer more features than the converted unit would. But for a basic split throttle HOTAS with a USB connection and plenty of buttons and switches the conversion is an attractive alternative. The units can occasionally be found on Ebay or for sale in simulation associated forums for as cheap as $30 to $60.

This unit will still work with a PC that is running Windows XP and has a game port built in or a soundcard with a game port, Sound Blasters were a prominent example of these cards.

Many computers today are running Windows 8 or Windows 10 operating systems. These operating systems don't support a game port, instead they are USB device oriented. The solution is to convert the unit to be USB compatible.

There are emulation boards that can be used to convert the unit to USB, this would require one board for the throttle and one for the joystick. These will also require considerable wiring and soldering skills as part of the conversion process. You also will need an understanding of schematics.

Having converted a joystick to USB before I wanted to find an easier way for this HOTAS. While looking for USB conversion tips on the web I ran across something called FUSBA from a company called RealSimulator. This seemed to be a ready made solution for the throttle and Talon F-15 stick I had purchased for $30.00. The price of the unit was about $109.00 USD. I purchased the item and it arrived about 10 days later.

The following is a quick overview of how the conversion went.

The kit arrived in a small box that contained the replacement module, two new sliding potentiometers, usb cable, extra wires for pot replacement and a PS/2 conversion connector for the Talon F-15 joystick to connect to the throttle. It was very high quality workmanship.

There are no written instructions packed with the kit, you'll need an internet connection to look at the series of instructional videos on the site or YouTube. This can be a drawback if you don't have a connection although that would be rare.

The video that shows potentiometer replacement is located here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56roFeW-hLQ
I followed the steps which were straight forward and fairly easy.


The New Pots


Remove four STAR screws


Location of old pots

One potentiometer is located on each side, one for each throttle lever. The only concern was being careful not to break any of the plastic tabs holding them in place. I did damage one pot trying to pry it out.


The other side


Replacement pots in

These new potentiometer wires are attached to the usb assembly when using a kit. Apparently when just replacing the pots without the conversion kit the old wires are cut and the new pots are spliced in.

The next step is to replace the game port module with the usb conversion module. Again the instruction guide is on the site and YouTube. The video is located here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oHv6PE8jKU

The video was straight forward in showing all the steps but I had to pause and rewind several times to make sure I was getting the right connectors plugged in correctly. Removing the module also required being careful as it was a bit more difficult to remove than shown in the video.


The bottom plate removed

 

The module in the lower left is removed. It will be replaced with the conversion module.


Module removed and connectors disconnected

 

                               

The module on the right side is removed to cut the old pot wires to remove the old pots. There is also a white 5 wire connector that is unplugged and the ribbon connector shown on the left is removed. These connectors will be used on the new module.

The PCB is no longer used but is reinstalled to hold the buttons and leds in place. I kept the components in case I ever decided to revert back to the original specs.


Before module install

The module has connections for a usb cable and connections for the joystick which includes the game port and a PS/2 adapter cable that plugs into a connector on the right side if you have the Talon F-15 stick.

\

The module has connections for the new pots that came with the kit.

There is also a download link on the site for the calibration software tool which I downloaded and installed on my PC. The link for the software installation and setup is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLXWqIUalvA


Calibration software

After completing the setup the HOTAS worked like a champ. All buttons on the stick and throttle were functional through the usb plug. The unit will however did lose it's built in programmability. Most modern sims allow buttons to be assigned to what ever function needed including modifier keys and switches to allow different modes so this is not a great loss.


Some extra cabling from joystick to throttle

Although this is a great solution there are some issues that must be taken into account.

My F-15 Talon joystick has to be initially programmed through a PS/2 port and PS/2 keyboard. One it is programmed it not required again, this is to make sure that each button sends a key press. Sticks that require only a game port should work just fine.

I have a Z270 motherboard that luckily incorporated a legacy PS/2 port which is great. I also had an older PC with a PS/2 port as well. Instructions for programming the Talon stick are available here. I couldn't locate it on the site but found the link on the web. http://www.realsimulator.com/FUSBA_stick_programming.pdf

One other issue was that I could not get the software to install on Windows 10 64 Bit. It required .NET Framework 3.5 which was incompatible for Windows 10 64 Bit as far as I could tell.

It did install on a Windows 7 machine so I copied the  installed folders to the Windows 10 PC. The software force installed required components to Windows 10 when I ran the executable to run the calibration software. It worked fine after that although there is no calibration screen in Windows 10, the tab is grayed out. The calibration software however works just fine so it's not an issue for me.

There is extra cabling between the throttle and the joystick as there is game port and PS/2 connector.  In summary, the product works as advertised and I was able to update a HOTAS that I had bought 5 years ago making it a useful unit for my current pc and sims. My total cost was about $110.00, Great!

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