Of course, we were in a real hurry to open up each of the two sections of the Cougar and find out what’s underneath the black metal casing. Not that this action does anything to invalidate the warranty - in fact, users might actually need to access the inside of the throttle device because they may want to alter the slowing, idling and afterburner features and move them closer to or further from the extremities of travel of the axis. Dismantling and reassembling them is no problem, and the internal parts are extremely simple, which is an indication of their durability. Similarly, the nice, clean electronics reflect a high level of integration.
Upon examining the interior of the control column, we found we had a little surprise in store. Contrary to the current trend, Thrustmaster relies on electro-optical technology to control the main analog axes (X and Y) and has resorted to digital potentiometers. This means that there is a greater danger of wear ; former users of the FLCS F-16 will remember only too well the recurring control problems they had as a result of poor quality potentiometers. Thrustmaster’s project manager Guillaume Lelevé explains that this choice was due to the accrued precision contributed by this type of digital potentiometer. This type of potentiometer is capable of returning more than 3,000 separate values, as opposed to the 256 that are normally returned by an electro-optical system or by standard potentiometers (which are in fact used on the other Cougar axes). In any case, with the Cougar, the signal is reduced and amplified electronically, to deliver a grand total of 65,635 separate values. Is this sort of precision really necessary, even at a cost of eventually having to replace worn out potentiometers ? We doubt it. It should be admitted, however, that through the duration of the test, the responses of the X and Y axes on the control column showed no sign of weakness. That’s a good sign when you recall that the FLCS F-16’s potentiometers showed the first signs of fatigue after just a few days of prolonged use. In a worst case scenario, the very simple mounting of the control column potentiometers, set into a plastic frame attached with screws to the body, makes them very easy to replace (parts supplied upon request by Thrustmaster), using nothing more than a Philips screwdriver.