Back a couple of weeks ago I was able to get some hands on time with Thrustmaster’s new F/A-18C Hornet grip at Flight-Sim Expo and I thought I would add some of my initial impressions together with a round-up on this new grip that is coming out very soon with commercial availability expected July 25.
The authentic Hornet experience
Thrustmaster’s Warthog throttle, base and grip has been a very successful product in my estimation with a large percentage of DCS pilots responding that it was their system of choice in a poll conducted just a few months ago. That thread appears gone now but the percentage was at least in the 60-70% range.
The new F/A-18C Hornet Add-on Grip is not so much of a replacement as it is an option for current and future Thrustmaster owners. In a great conversation I had with Tim Gorham, North American Marketing Manager for Thrustmaster, we talked about the direction that they are going with future peripherals and it does seem like flexibility and modularity are going to be the future. Intriguingly the grip is officially compatible with both their older HOTAS Cougar base as well as the newer HOTAS Warthog base (both sold separately) and in a side note is also supposedly compatible with VIRPIL’s WarBRD base.
As for the here and now, the new grip was available to try at FS Expo and while I didn’t have a lot of time with it, I did have a few minutes to form some impressions.
Solid, precise, and it feels real
The first thing that I noticed checking out the new Hornet grip is the materials. Thrustmaster has built the grip mostly out of metal although they did go with a high grade resin material to keep weight balance more appropriately matched for desktop use. That aside, most of the materials on the grip are authentic to the touch.
There’s also a very ergonomic feel to the grip that I was really impressed with. This is a 1:1 replica of the Hornet grip so in a way we’re benefiting from what was probably an extensive R&D effort to make a comfortable and ergonomic grip for the Hornet (and other McDonald Douglas aircraft including the AV-8B Harrier).
My time with the hat switches was very limited so until I can do a full review I won’t comment too much on them but they did feel solid. So did the weapon release button on the left (that was metal too) which appeared to have a bit of a satisfying click sound when pressed.
The smaller black button seemed to have a similar feel. The one I’m not sure about right now is the ‘wheel’ which is really just a two way button (up/down) which is an add-on not found on the original stick.
I’m told that this was a concession to make it easier to scroll through menus or the like while using VR or when not in reach of a keyboard. A very high end consideration and one that may be immensely appreciated in those kinds of setups.
The trigger felt pretty good too with its two stage actuation and there’s a leaver on the bottom as well. I only got to press it a few times so again, these impressions are limited to just a quick test.
One final note on this right now as Thrustmaster has worked with Eagle Dynamics to make sure that the grip has a default binding applied to it in DCS World. So, just like with the A-10C, you won’t need to bind anything to make this work. That’s a really nice touch!
Some lucky YouTuber’s have had a chance to spend more time with the new Thrustmaster grip than I have and I wanted to make sure that you’ve heard all of the opinions. So check them out here:
Pricing controversy and availability
F/A-18C Hornet HOTAS Add-On Grip by Thrustmaster is going to be available starting July 25th according to the press release and pre-release information on their website and given Thrustmaster’s mass market structure will likely be able to keep pace with the expected high demand for this peripheral. That would be my guess at least and certainly the Thrustmaster reps sounded confident.
Thrustmaster has priced the Hornet HOTAS Add-On Grip at $225.95 USD which has rankled some folks who are finding that price to be too high. That said, pricing on the Warthog grip are coming in at $219.99 in some stores (though it can be found cheaper used) which is not far off though it does come with the base as well.
I haven’t had a chance to use the grip for more than few minutes so I can’t fully assess right now if its worth the value, however, there’s a bunch of things going for this grip and chief among them is its build quality and build materials. It’s also a very authentic replica and that carries both some weight as well as inherits some really nice designed features. I can see VR pilots really taking to the stick if they fly the DCS: F/A-18C Hornet or DCS: AV-8B Harrier.
Given the build quality and the likely price that’s being paid to get an authentic replica stick made, I really don’t see this grip as being overly expensive. It’s definitely part of the higher end market for flight sim peripherals and still nowhere close to what I saw as prices for some hardware at Flight Sim Expo. It’s also, for people with a far smaller hardware budget, not for everyone.
If you’re interested in placing a pre-order, Thrustmaster is cranking up the production on the grip now and you can find more information out about the new F/A-18C Hornet HOTAS Add-On Grip by Thrustmaster right here.