New IO Interface Component

I have been using up recycled interconnect boards from the skip at work, but as that source is quickly running out I thought I should find an available substitute.
I like the idea of using CAT5 cable and connectors for running between my components and IO boards, so I looked for an RJ45 connector which would suit my needs. A quick search on Aliexpress.com came up with these:

I do quite enjoy getting small parcels of goodness from Aliexpress!

For around $3 each, these things allow me to wire 7 IO lines, plus a common to each cable, which in turn runs to my centralised IO.

My first use of these will be on the 737 MIP, when I wire up the remaining buttons, then the long-awaited EFIS Panel, where I hope to design the connector into the panel, as an integral part, allowing for easy removal for maintenance.

Click here to check out this product on Aliexpress

CT4 Forward Air Controller?

With my playing around in DCS, and my love of the FAC mission, I decided to try a conversion of my CT4 model as a working FAC aircraft in DCS.

I had the basic aircraft geometry imported and converted, albeit with a few bugs so I tackled the task of adding weapons to it one night, and the results were surprisingly good!

CT4/FAC over Echo Lake Nevada on a test flight

I was certain that somewhere in the past the idea of a FAC conversion of the CT4 had been floated, which added some sort of legitimacy to my project.. A bit of searching on the ‘net came up with this page at Aviadejavu.ru

1976 Photo of a CT4 FAC test.

Finding this image was a great step, giving some credence to the idea of a FAC CT4. I need to model the pylons, and find the right sized pods to hang under the wings, and we will have a usable FAC platform for our multiplayer missions!

The most recent news on the modding front is that I am running a 30 day trial of 3DStudio Max, which will hopefully give me time to finish the CT4 project at least… And plans are in play to secure the use of 3DS Max for longer… watch this space!

Seeing the Wood, Despite the Multitude of Trees

After a bit of a revelation it occurred to me that for a very long time I have been trying to create a simulation environment in my sims which is almost exactly the same as DCS:World provides. I have been, for a long time, been trying to develop a multi-platform ‘combat’ simulation, using the tools with which I am very familiar.
I found it very interesting that I opted to stay with my known and familiar environment, rather than taking a leap…. In this case I was very ingrained in the development of FS9 content, I was comfortable working in the environment, I could ‘talk’ to the simulation, I understood the way most things worked inside the sim. What I was really after was a complete combat simulation covering air land and sea warfare, with a Tactical Commander function.
DCS:World has always been on my radar, I have ‘played’ around with it over the years, but never anything more than that. Recently though, with my interest in VR, I have been learning more and more about how DCS works, and how I can develop content for it, and make it into the sim I’ve always been looking for!

TACOPS; part of my mission to make a combat sim out of my FS9 based sims 🙂

So. I am now ‘officially’ (as officially as I do…) I have stopped development of TACOPS and pretty much all of my projects around trying to morph FS9 into a combat sim…..
My focus now is on development of content for DCS, focusing on NZ and the Cold War era.
My 737 and Arrow sims will continue, running FS9 and FSX respectively, but wont be trying to be involved in any ‘combat’ mission.

Some DCS Development… and a glance into the future

It is very odd to look back and contemplate all the time and effort I have spent on a project which was merely trying to replicate something which was already around..

So now it’s onward and upward… I can concentrate on using the best software for each of my sims, rather than trying to make the one platform do everything I wanted.

SO, New software plan
– TA-4k Skyhawk will be running DCS:World.
– Piper Arrow will be running FS9 and/or FSX
– Boeing 737 will remain on FS9

That is, until the plan changes again!

TA-4k Sim:DCS Conversion

The deadline for having the sim at least “flyable’ was Saturday, and I made it… just. We had a group of friends over for a ‘BBQ and Sim’ evening, and my mission was to get the Skyhawk sim converted over to DCS ‘enough’ for them to have a fly around. This got further complicated when I discovered that my oldest controller in the sim was not Win64 compatible… which lead to some hectic re-wiring, and trying to figure out how I had wired some of the earliest panels from *many* years ago.

After a few beverages, and some good music I had it all re-wired, and ready to test. Only thing which didn’t work (that I’ve found so far!) was the gear lever, which wasn’t bad given the significantly compressed time-frame on this part of the conversion.
With the hardware (mostly) working it was time to start ‘mapping’ the various buttons and switches in DCS. For the purposes of the Saturday night flying, I only mapped the more important controls, allowing all the novice flyers to have some nice scenic flying.

Test Pilot Nathan takes the sim for a spin

Before the flying night I had three eight year old’s test the sim, headed by Nathan, my Chief Test Pilot… I figured if some 8 year old’s had fun, then a bunch of middle-aged, half drunk motorcyclists would be fine 😉

I didn’t take any photos on the night, but everyone had a ball, lots of sight-seeing around Vegas, and some ‘unplanned landings’….

Next morning, slightly hung-over, I tidied up the display-extraction tools to correctly display the Maverick TV Images on the RH DU, then did a wee test flight ironing out issues with the weapons systems.

After the past weeks experiments and steep learning curve, I am petty happy with where the sim is at. The path to a more-functional ‘Kahu-esq’ Skyhawk is clearer than it was. I am going to try and merge some of the Community A-4E project, with a TA-4k visual model and A-10A avionics. This will allow me to shoot Mavericks, drop laser guide bombs, and fire Sidewinders. The only thing missing is a radar, but for the most part I think it will give the best compromise feeling.

Sunday night, sitting on the couch writing this, I feel that I have accomplished a lot in the last few days. There is a lot more to do, and a lot more to learn, but it’s a good start. A very good start!

What a night!

Sometimes you just have to take the plunge, and last night was *THAT* time. After procrastinating for so long about changing over the main PC in the Skyhawk sim, I decided to just do it, and figure it all out as I went along.
First step was to fire up the sim in it’s current state, to say farewell.. I was going to go for a fly, but with my motivation levels at a high point, and not wanting to get distracted I decided to just take a couple of final photos then rip into it.

The PC swap-out wasn’t too big of a deal, but running and sorting cables was… One day I will just rip all of this mess out and start again with cut-to-length cabling..

One day…. One day 🙂

With the PC in place it was a case of figuring out what needed to be re-connected, and what wouldn’t work. So far the list of ‘wont work’ things is short; can’t connect my MIP monitor, due to the new PC only having one analogue output, and can’t connect my **seriously* old DB9 COM cable… which runs ACCIS.
SO, PC in, fired up, windows updates done.. time to fire up DCS and see what happens. Of course, DCS needed updates.. many many updates, like 5Gb’s worth.

But finally, we got there! Nothing mapped, and only the stick <sort of> working but it flew.. and looks awesome!

Tonight I hope to start mapping some of the cockpit switches, and maybe define what I want to be able to do in the sim, at least in the short term.

Compass and Clock for the Skyhawk

After making my mock-up compass and clock I started looking for real components to replace them. It all started when I stumbled over an inoperative clock on a suppliers website, then a black compass showed up at work…. 2+2 in this case equals ‘yeehaa’ 🙂

Though not exactly correct they are close, and will look great in the cockpit.

737 Throttle Quadrant

Over the past years I have been slowly collecting all of the used, cast-off or reject TQ parts from work… Today I thought I’d gather them all together and sort out what I had.

The list of ‘missing’ parts was not as long as I had expected, which was a nice surprise. There were even a pair of ‘Classic-correct’ trim wheels (from a development project at work..) in the box!
My TQ build is going to be a long slow process as I get the time to work on it, but at least I have a good bunch of the parts 🙂

737 Overhead beginnings

I had planned on having the overhead as just a static panel, with not much on it, then I evolved it into having only the switches I needed, maybe a ‘fictional’ panel covering the function I needed….
Well, that all changed when I scored a pile of old, quite used FDS panel faceplates from an NG overhead, most of which are usable on a classic. Despite only needing a few switches for my needs, I plan on fitting all the switches and annunciators….

A mixture of real and replica panels. Makes a nice ‘patchwork’ effect, which looks like a worn cockpit.

I will need to draw up a series of backplates, and fit dzus fasteners. Then finally I’ll have to either source or replicate the missing panels.
**Eagle eyed spotters will notice that the Cabin Temp panel is sitting upside-down!

DCS Library Development

For many years Military AI Works have produced excellent military scenery, many of which leverage of a series of ‘Object Libraries’ produced by many very talented designers. I have been using these libraries in my projects for a long time, and with my switch to DCS I felt a little lost without the breadth of objects available to “detail” airports with.
So, being the infernal tinkerer that I am, I have cobbled a workflow together which allows me to convert FS9 Object Libraries into DCS ‘mods’. It is a laborious task, with a lot of file editing and hand manipulation of 3d models, but it does work!

MAIW Objects scattered around a P-3 in DCS

While I was converting models I had a small experiment with static aircraft, converted from FS9 models. The P-3 in the picture above is by Jake Burrus, with my retro RNZAF AI paint, and looks quite good in the sim.

These first experiments with bringing my ‘familiar’ FS9 objects into DCS has started me thinking about how I can incorporate some of the design philosophies that have evolved over the years into the DCS world.

The flight line could get ‘interesting’

With a workflow established, and a bit more learning of the lua files which run everything in DCS, I got a little more ambitious and converted HMNZS Canterbury, and have it operating as a working vessel, with a landable helipad..

RNZAF Iroquois landing on HMNZS Canterbury…. a DCS First (I believe)

Another Sim Software Shuffle?

After recently deciding on the software for each of my sims, and the shift of VR into the Skyhawk, I have had a bit of a re-think!
This has mostly come about by my breaking out my old Thrustmaster Cougar HOTAS, and setting it up in DCS and FSX.

‘Cougar’ in place on the desk. Perhaps a custom keyboard shelf will be next?

Another part of the reason for the shift has been a re-discovery of the joys of VR in other simulations. I spent a very relaxing evening driving from Oxnard, CA to Yuma, AZ in American Truck Simulator, which reminded me how much fun VR can be, beyond the ‘cockpit’ of the Skyhawk.

The new plan (until I change it again of course) is to run both DCS and FS9 on the Skyhawk, but skip the VR part, at least for now. I hope to put together a version of the A-4, with a modified version of the F-15C avionics, and simplified weapons, which will let me fly a ‘pseudo Kahu’ in the ‘pit, and join in multiplayer missions, while retaining VR capability on the current desk-based rig. This shift will mean FS9 will remain as the primary sim for the Skyhawk, with DCS being a development as time goes on.